Negotiators near deal to end Sierra Leone coup
June 1, 1997
Web posted at: 1:13 p.m. EDT (1313 GMT)
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (CNN) -- Negotiators are within days
of reaching a final deal to end the week-long coup in Sierra
Leone, the country's ambassador to the United States told CNN
Sunday. The deal would probably give some of the coup
leaders safe passage out of Sierra Leone.
"The deal is 95 percent advanced, we're just about to cross
the t's and dot the i's," said Ambassador John Leigh. "It
looks like these people will shortly put down their coup,
leave the country, and the president and parliament of Sierra
Leone will be reinstituted under the constitution."
|Sierra Leonean Ambassador John Leigh|
AIFF or WAV
On the coup leaders and the rebels...
(247 K / 22 sec. audio)
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On international involvement...
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Negotiations began Saturday at the military headquarters in
Freetown, as military sources reported that a contingent of
Guinean troops had entered Sierra Leone to join the
Nigerian-led regional force gearing up to reverse the
week-old coup by junior officers in Freetown.
Some observers had suggested the situation could be
complicated by the fact that the coup had been largely
hijacked by a group of Sierra Leone rebels, the Revolutionary
United Front (RUF), which has waged an armed campaign against
the government since 1991.
Reports said the RUF was opposed to any negotiations. And a
radio address issued by the RUF said the group had brought
5,000 men from its long-running bush war and would fight any
intervention force to the end.
But Leigh said the RUF would not pose a serious problem.
About 75 percent of the capital was already under the control
of 3,000 west African peacekeeping troops there, and Nigeria,
Ghana and Guinea were sending more troops in by the hour, he
"The coup leaders are surrounded, the rebels are young boys,
some of them are as young as 7 years of age, they have
antiquated equipment, they are emaciated, and they are only a
"The rest of the people who look like rebels are in fact
hooligans who have joined them. They are not really seasoned
fighters," he said. "They have not slept for four or five
nights, they are totally bewildered and cornered, they are
going to step down."
He said his contacts said Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan
Kabbah, who fled to neighboring Guinea after the coup, would
be back in the country in a couple of days.
U.S. resumes evacuations
Meanwhile, U.S. Marines returned to Sierra Leone Sunday to
evacuate more Westerners. Four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters
landed at a Freetown hotel in which hundreds of people have
sought the protection of Nigerian troops.
The evacuation is similar to Friday's operation but employed
a "more robust force," according to Capt. Greg Ertel of the
USS Kearsarge, to which evacuees were being ferried by
Marines airlifted some 900 U.S. and other citizens Friday,
including all Americans who sought to leave.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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