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Liberian Leaders Told to Step Down

Aired July 3, 2003 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Our top story, Liberia.
There are conflicting reports about Liberia. Some say President Charles Taylor has been given a 48-hour ultimatum to step down but it is not clear who, if anybody, gave that order. The White House says it was not them.

The reports come as President Bush considers whether U.S. troops should be sent to Liberia to stop the ongoing civil violence there.

Joining us by video phone, Jeff Koinange. He's in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

Jeff, what can you tell us about these conflicting reports about Charles Taylor being given an ultimatum?

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I can tell you just a couple of hours ago that senior source inside the executive mansion right here in Monrovia telling me that embattled President Taylor did receive that ultimatum sometime Thursday afternoon and that it did come directly from the United States.

I asked him what -- how soon and they said 48 hours from Thursday, meaning sometime Saturday.

I said, "What does that mean? What if he doesn't go?"

They say, "You do the math." That's all they said, Anderson. "You do the math."

COOPER: Jeff, Monrovia obviously a very dangerous place for you to be tonight. What is it like for you on the streets right now?

KOINANGE: I tell you, for the very first time, Anderson, a few hours ago, anti-Taylor demonstrators in the streets. This has never happened before in the five and a half years that President Taylor has been president. You could see people in the streets waving placards saying "Taylor must go."

They are joining the call of the U.S. and other nations, saying that embattled President Taylor is the cause of all the problems in this country and he must leave. And that if any kind of peacekeeping force is coming to Liberia, that it must be in a post-Taylor administration.

Those demonstrators taking to the streets. There were, however, some pro-Taylor demonstrators. And you know, he's very popular, still, in the city of Monrovia. But for first time this means that the tide is fast turning around -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Koinange in Monrovia, Liberia tonight, thank you very much.

As the U.S. considers a plan to send 500 to maybe 1,000 troops to Liberia, 50 Marines right now standing by for a possible mission to secure the U.S. embassy in Monrovia.

Joining us to discuss the military options is CNN military analyst General David Grange. He is in Oakbrook, Illinois.

General, thanks for being with us. What are the options? I mean, obviously we have these 50 Marines who are probably going to be used to secure the embassy, but beyond that peacekeeping, peace enforcement, will it work?

GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, that's the missions that we know about. I can assure you, Anderson there's other missions being planned. A hostage rescue not only reinforcing the embassy, extracting American citizens or other citizens designated by the U.S. government, for instance other European countries maybe.

And then, of course, peacekeeping or peace enforcement. U.S. being either a part of and a lead of probably a larger coalition force.

COOPER: Of course, what everyone -- what pops into a lot of people's minds, Somalia, what happened to U.S. forces there on the ground. Is it possible the same kind of sort of quagmire situation, shifting sands, could happen in Monrovia or is it different case entirely?

GRANGE: Every mission changes. Every mission you have to plan for the worst case. You plan for what's known as branches or sequels off of the original mission.

In other words there may be a peacekeeping mission that turns into combat or a combat mission that then turns into stability operations and humanitarian assistance, whatever the case may be.

And so it could turn into something like Somalia but the key thing here is that I thing there's demonstrated resolve to complete the mission. In Somalia the mission wasn't completed. It got bad for awhile and then we left and it should have been completed. In this case I think that f the U.S. goes the mission will be completed.

COOPER: All right. Now I suppose different, also, in the sense of not so clan based. the armies involved here. And Charles Taylor certain a figure with not a huge amount of support. We are told, Jeff Koinange reporting among others, among the people in Monrovia.

GRANGE: Great point. In this case, you know, English speaking. Not as many tribes as you would encounter, like in Somalia or even Afghanistan. Some Christian religion. So you have some part of the culture of the situation supports, let's say, some U.S. involvement, especially with historical ties. And the other is that you have a substantial rebel force that wants the overthrow of Charles Taylor.

COOPER: All right. Understood. We're going to follow this very closely. General David Grange, always good to talk to you. Thank you.


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