Rebel leader Charles Taylor agreed today to meet with Gambian leader Sir Dawda Jawara to discuss West African calls for a cease-fire in Liberia's civil war. It was the first time Taylor agreed to such talks.
Taylor's maneuver will likely delay deployment of a five-nation West African task force mobilizing in neighboring Sierra Leone. The force was expected to move into the besieged Liberian capital of Monrovia this week to force a truce in the war.
Taylor earlier said his troops would fight any peacekeeping force.
Also today, about 200 foreigners, including one American, left Monrovia to rendezvous with U.S. Marine helicopters in Buchanan, the rebel-held port about 90 miles southeast of Monrovia.
More than 200 Marines from warships off the Liberian coast were airlifted to Monrovia on Aug. 5 to evacuate Americans and protect U.S. installations. Washington has said they would not intervene in the war.
On Sunday, President Samuel K. Doe reversed an earlier promise to step down by October and said he wants to stay in office for at least a year after the regional force moves in to halt the fighting. Taylor has repeatedly demanded Doe's immediate resignation.
A communique from the rebels said Taylor accepted an invitation from Jawara and would meet him in Banjul, the Gambian capital. The communique was issued at Taylor's headquarters in Harbel, 35 miles east of Monrovia.
The communique said Taylor also would talk with Nigerian leader Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Ghana's Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is current chairman of the Organization of African Unity.
"It is the president's (Taylor's) considered view that ECOWAS (Economic Community of West Africa) has a role to play, and (there is) an even wider one for the OAU," the statement said.