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Liberian Officials, Rebels to Meet Monday for Talks : Africa: Pressure is growing for a settlement of the six-month-old rebellion. An airlift will evacute hundreds of Americans today.

From Reuters

The Liberian government said Saturday that it will begin peace talks this week with rebels who have fought their way to the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia, in their drive to overthrow President Samuel K. Doe.

But a church source said that the rebels, led by U.S.-educated businessman Charles Taylor, had agreed only to meet a government delegation in neighboring Sierra Leone and had not said whether they would negotiate.

“They will meet each other, but it’s just to meet each other and not for real negotiations,” the source said.

Pressure has been growing for a negotiated settlement to the six-month-old rebellion, which has degenerated into a tribal conflict in which diplomats say hundreds of civilians have been killed.

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The Liberian Council of Churches, with Muslim leaders, proposed a three-point peace program to both sides last week. It called for a cease-fire, round-table talks and provisions to ensure the safety of all involved in the conflict.

The Liberian government said Friday that it had agreed to the plan but that President Doe would not meet Taylor and would not resign, a precondition set by Taylor for talks.

The government said Saturday that the talks will start Monday at the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone.

Deputy Information Minister Moses Washington said the initial aim of the negotiations would be to negotiate a cease-fire, and the national news agency LINA said the Liberian Council of Churches would act as mediator.

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Rebel leader Taylor was in the port of Buchanan, 75 miles southeast of Monrovia, where he told journalists Saturday of his willingness to negotiate, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.

The BBC report said Taylor had stipulated that President Doe, Vice President Henry Moniba and Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Henry Dubar would have to leave.

The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia has organized an airlift this weekend to evacuate Americans from this West African country, and the flights were booked to capacity Saturday.

About 360 people, including Americans and Liberians meeting special criteria, have signed up for three flights today by a chartered Boeing 737 that will take them to Abidjan in neighboring Ivory Coast, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.

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