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Jeff Koinange: Liberians hoping for peace

CNN's Jeff Koinange

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(CNN) -- Liberian President Charles Taylor planned to meet Sunday with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to discuss a temporary asylum offer, Liberian officials said, despite complaints from a U.N.-backed court that such an offer would violate international law. Meanwhile, a U.S. team was due in Liberia Sunday to assess military options.

CNN anchor Sean Callebs discussed the developments in Liberia with Correspondent Jeff Koinange in Monrovia.

KOINANGE: I can tell you that news of the assessment team coming to town will be very welcome here on the ground in Monrovia. As you well know, Liberians have been suffering for most of the past quarter century. And news of them coming will be great for the people.

Just imagine for a moment, more than 100,000 displaced Liberians who have fled fighting in the countryside coming to the capital of Monrovia, seeking shelter, seeking food, seeking any kind of assistance, and finding none, because most of the aid workers have fled because security is such a problem here.

With the assessment team coming, they will see for themselves, and then assess how many troops in terms of numbers and what kind of aid will be provided to the people. That will be very welcome.

Again, President Taylor saying, insisting he will leave, but he will leave as soon as peacekeepers arrive, and he did say if they arrive tomorrow, he will leave tomorrow. If they arrive next week, then he will be gone then.

A very crucial situation now. Sunday, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo comes to town. He will meet with President Taylor to discuss further the option of asylum in Nigeria, or as President Taylor calls it "a soft landing." So a very important meeting happening in the next 24 hours or so.

CALLEBS: How hopeful are the residents of Liberia that some true peace could come to their country?

KOINANGE: They can only hope for true peace. They have had it so bad in the last quarter century. So much violence, so much anarchy. They feel any foreign presence on the ground will bring life to some kind of normalcy. That's all they are asking. They want to go back to their homes, live lives like they used to before. They have had too much suffering, too much fleeing in their own country. And any foreign presence will be more than welcomed here on the ground.

CALLEBS: Realistically, what could just a few thousand peacekeeping or humanitarian troops from whatever country do to bring some stability there immediately?

KOINANGE: You would be surprised, because for the last, let's say, decade and a half, it's just rebels who have been running rampant across the countryside. Peacekeepers coming in. We are talking about an organized force here, people who know how to go about their business. The rebels will not dare encounter or engage in any encounter with any organized force. And that's really important.

And psychologically, no one wants to mess with the U.S., so to speak. They will see this as this is the big brother here, they are coming to help them out, and no one will even try to mess with them. So it's very important psychologically to let the people on the ground know forces are coming, they are coming to help. And people will either put down their arms, or they will not resist, because if they do, then they will be taken care of.

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