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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Taylor Steps Down

Aired August 11, 2003 - 19:16   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There is new hope for peace in Liberia tonight following the departure of President Charles Taylor. That happened earlier today. Weeks after first agreeing to give up power, Taylor finally kept his promise, getting on a plane, flying into exile. It was a move long demanded by Liberian rebels and international diplomats trying to broker a peace agreement. CNN's Jeff Koinange has more now from Monrovia.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They came to show their support. Three African presidents, a whole host of dignitaries and friends, standing room only here to witness a man who had a promise to keep. And when the time came for the man in white to address his nation for the last time as president, it was vintage Taylor, defiant to the end, blaming the west for his failed presidency.

CHARLES TAYLOR, FORMER PRES. OF LIBERIA: I want to be the sacrificial lamb. I am the whipping boy. You know, it is so easy to say because of Taylor. There is going to be no more Taylor after a few more minutes.

KOINANGE: In between polite applause, Mr. Taylor sent a word of warning to his fellow African heads of state.

TAYLOR: Liberia is a soft spot. Decisions are not being made in our capitals. They are being made in foreign capitals. You must be careful.

KOINANGE: And he made a promise.

TAYLOR: I will be back.

KOINANGE: He took off his presidential sash, and a new president was quickly sworn in.

KOINANGE (on camera): And just like that, president Taylor steps down as Liberia's 21st president, the third time ever in this country's 156-year history.

(voice-over): And then the man who drove his country for the past six years headed for the airport. Along the way, thousands of Liberians watched, some waving branches, others simply staring. At the airport, more crowds and a plane provided by Nigeria. A quick wave of the white handkerchief and the man who ruled the nation with an iron fist suddenly became a man without a country, driven out by a popular uprising and international pressure.

As the jet lifted into the afternoon sky, many here left hoping this country can put itself back together again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOINANGE: And, Anderson, we can tell you late today, former president Taylor is already in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Although the shock still hasn't weighed in, hasn't kicked in, has not gone off that he has or he won't be returning home for a long time to come. Anderson?

COOPER: Well, we'll see if peace finally does come to the troubled land of Liberia. Thanks very much, Jeff Koinange. And to put this story in perspective, Charles Taylor is the first elected Liberian president to end his term alive since World War II. The last two dictators, William Tolbert and Samuel Doe, were murdered.

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