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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Nigerian Forces Ready to Assist in Liberia

Aired July 25, 2003 - 19:13   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Moving to Liberia now in West Africa, another big story, fast developing story.
Rebel fighters announced another cease-fire today, their third since last month. We'll see if this one holds.

In the latest round of violence between government and rebel forces, more than one dozen people are dead, scores more wounded. Tonight, more than 4,000 U.S. servicemen are on Navy ships waiting for the word from Washington on possible deployment to Liberia.

Meantime, Nigeria is already answering the international cry for help. And that is where we find CNN's Jeff Koinange, standing by in Lagos.

Jeff, what's the latest? What are you hearing about the situation on the ground in Monrovia as U.S. forces are poised to go in.

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, President Bush's message was actually relayed on a local radio station in Monrovia and it was received with mixed messages. Mixed answers. People on the ground saying why are they sending these troops? It's a little too little too late.

As you know, day seven, saw one of the most intensive days of fighting and bombing. Literally street-to-street combat and mortar shells raining down all over the capital in and around the U.S. embassy. One falling at an abandoned school, killing eight people, and another one falling on another building, killing four people.

Death toll today, 26 and counting. Up to day seven, over 1,200.

Now, people on the ground are saying what's going to happen next? Well, we can tell you Nigeria -- this is going to be welcome news from Nigeria, Anderson, because there are two battalions right now sitting in neighboring Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The U.S. says they'll provide logistics for that and Nigeria says those troops should be on the ground in a matter of days.

You mentioned the rebels calling for a cease-fire. Well, a U.S. official on the ground saying, don't hold your breath.

Anderson, to top all this, there's another piece of information. This little bit of good news comes on the eve of Liberia's 156th Independence Day. So a sliver of light in otherwise a country, dark, dark in checkered history, Anderson.

COOPER: Do we know, I mean anything about what these U.S. forces are likely to face once they get into Liberia? I mean, you know, the specter, of course, of Somalia is raised when you talk now about U.S. intervention in any African nation.

But it is a very different situation, isn't it?

KOINANGE: It's a very different situation, Anderson. And you've got to remember because of the close links this country has with the United States, this -- the mere presence of these Marines on the ground on the streets of Monrovia, it will actually turn things around.

If the rebels are sincere about their cease-fire -- and again, like the U.S. official says, you cannot hold your breath on that. In fact, I interviewed the leader of the rebels yesterday. He said a cease-fire is out of the question right now. Maybe this news will change his mind, because once those troops are on the ground no one in their right mind would want to engage a U.S. Marine, fully armed and fully loaded.

COOPER: Well, let's hope that's certainly true. There's also word now Charles Taylor may be hinting he may not be leaving power after all. Do you have any information on that?

KOINANGE: We're hearing the same thing, Anderson. He had said in an article in "The New York Times" only this week that on Independence Day, on Saturday, he would announce he would be leaving in 10 days' time. As you also know, he's also been saying as soon as U.S. peacekeepers are on the ground, he would leave.

Again, this man has said so many things and has not followed through, don't hold your breath, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Koinange, thanks very much for the report from Lagos, Nigeria, tonight.

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