UN team arrives in Liberia to survey needs of proposed peacekeeping force

The 11-member team will submit recommendations for the size, structure and mandate of a UN force, as requested by the Security Council.”We…talked about Monrovia, where things seem to be moving,” Mr. Annan told the press after a meeting this morning with United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. “We are making progress, both on the political and the military front, and we hope that in the not-too-distant future we will be making even greater strides.”The Liberian Government and two rebel movements signed the peace accord on Monday, paving the way for an interim government to take power in October to rebuild the nation and prepare for elections in two years’ time.The deal – brokered by representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Mr. Annan’s Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah – was signed two-and-a-half months after peace negotiations began in Accra, Ghana, and just one week after former President Charles Taylor left the country for exile in Nigeria on 11 August.Meanwhile on the humanitarian front, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) joined an inter-agency mission that moved beyond Monrovia to get a clearer picture of displacement and humanitarian needs in areas outside the capital.The joint-team went to Tubmanburg, a town about 50 kilometres north of Monrovia, where an estimated 20,000 people have been displaced amid the recent fighting. UNHCR said the displaced have been surviving mainly on cassava leaves and palm cabbage, and are in desperate need of food, health care and sanitation. The local hospital is empty, with all the medicine and equipment looted. Makeshift medical facilities have been set up at a nearby church.In Monrovia itself, security is still problematic, with daily reports of looting, carjacking, rape and burglary. The World Food Programme (WFP) continued distribution to some 9,000 displaced people, bringing the total number receiving food aid this week to 45,000. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners continued their operation to chlorinate some 3,000 wells around Monrovia. read more