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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Taylor Says Nigerian President Will Arrive in Monrovia on Sunday to Discuss Terms of Asylum

Aired July 4, 2003 - 10:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Our Jeff Koinange has recently just spoken with President Taylor in Liberia, and he's on the telephone with us right now to join us to give us a detailed account, Jeff, of your conversation.
JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Literally a few minutes ago, President Taylor came out of the executive mansion, and we called out to him and said, 'Mr. President, can we ask you a few questions because of all of these rumors flying around?' And I started off by asking him: Is it true you've accepted an offer of asylum in Nigeria? He said, "We're not talking about asylum, we're talking about a soft landing." So, right away he didn't rule that out.

He went on to say that Nigerian President Olesugun Obasanjo is due in Monrovia on Sunday to discuss this further. So, it looks like that story is all but confirmed.

I also asked him about the stepping-down issue, the ultimatum. He said, "I am going to step down, but if I step down right now the whole city will be in total anarchy. We need peacekeepers on the ground to facilitate security, law and order. I will step down. I am not discounting that at all."

And he went on to talk about everything from, you know, he's a Christian, he's a righteous person and he will leave. But he will leave, and he wants his people to be free and safe. And that he will just walk away.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Well, Jeff, I wonder what kind of timeline. If he says that all it takes is for peacekeepers to get on the ground there and for -- and at that point he will step down, could we be talking about as early as this weekend if they were able to mobilize those forces that quickly?

KOINANGE: If they can move the forces that quickly, he did say he would leave. Whenever the forces arrive and they are in place, he would leave. It's pretty difficult to move 1,000 people in 48 hours' time.

But here's the other deal. He says he has no problem with leaving at all. I said, 'Is it two weeks, is it four weeks?' He said, "I will leave when the peacekeepers are on the ground." So, again, he threw the ball right back in the corner of the U.S. government.

WHITFIELD: Well, you know, what's interesting about that is there have been some, particularly American officials, who say if the peacekeepers are on the ground there before he were to step down while he were still in that country, they may have to try to arrest him, because he's wanted for war crimes. Is that an expressed concern for him at all?

KOINANGE: Absolutely. We talked about this war crimes indictment against him. He says that has to be dropped. He's been saying that all along. It has to be dropped as part of his asylum package or his soft landing package. He reiterated that. He doesn’t want to be, you know, citizen Taylor, and then he gets arrested at the airport or on landing, you know, in Nigeria, if that's where he opts to go. So, definitely he wants that indictment dropped.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff Koinange, thank you very much for joining us on the telephone there from Monrovia. His latest update coming from his direct conversation with President Charles Taylor of Liberia, who says he is willing to step down as long as there are peacekeepers on the ground there, and as long as an orderly transition is forthcoming.

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Sunday to Discuss Terms of Asylum>


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