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Liberia peace force reaches rebel towns
© BBC News (UK Edition)
United Nations peacekeeping troops in Liberia have advanced into two major rebel-held towns for the first time.
Some 7,000 UN troops have helped end 14 years of conflict in Liberia but until last week, they had mostly remained in the
capital, Monrovia. After the peacekeepers had secured the towns of Buchanan and Gbarnga, aid agencies would be able to
deliver badly needed help, a UN official said. Most of Liberia is still too unsafe for refugees to go home, aid workers say.
A team of 250 Bangladeshi soldiers has arrived in Liberia's second port, Buchanan, 100km south-east of Monrovia, controlled
by the rebel Movement for Democracy in Liberia (Model), said UN spokesman Patrick Coker. Some 1,000 others landed in Gbarnga,
a Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) stronghold, 160km north-east of Monrovia.
The UN troop movement is "more or less" a permanent deployment to provide for a peacekeeping presence in areas that
have remained unstable despite the peace pact and ceasefire in place, Mr Coker told AFP news agency.
Last week, peacekeepers deployed for the first time outside Monrovia, to secure the strategic Kley Junction.
Former President Charles Taylor stepped down in August to go into exile in Nigeria, under a peace deal reached after Lurd
rebels had entered Monrovia. Former Taylor loyalists, both rebel groups and civilian opposition parties have formed a
power-sharing government under interim leader Gyude Bryant.
The national unity administration is tasked with organising elections in 2005.
Wednesday 31st December 2003