Powell expects Taylor to leave Liberia very soon


The US Secretary of State ColinPowell today said he expected Liberian President CharlesTaylor to leave the country "in the very near future."

Hundreds of thousands of Liberians cheered West Africanpeacekeepers as they rolled through the Liberian capitalMonrovia, where three rebel attacks have killed at least 2,000people and turned the city into a giant refugee camp.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Powell said that theUnited States supports Taylor's indictment by the UN-backedspecial court on war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone even ifhe accepts an offer of asylum in Nigeria.

"If Mr. Taylor leaves Liberia, as we expect him to do inthe very near future, and is given asylum in Nigeria, this doesnot remove the indictment in any way," Powell told foreignreporters in a news conference.

"It then becomes a matter between Mr. Taylor and the ...UN tribunal for Sierra Leone. We support the indictment. Hecertainly has allegations against him which I think clearlywarrant him appearing before that tribunal," Powell said.

The court says Taylor, himself a former warlord, was themain backer of Sierra Leone rebels who became notorious forhacking off civilians' limbs, gang-raping women and recruitingchildren in a decade-long civil war.

Taylor said he would hand over power to his vice president,Moses Blah, next Monday. He is then supposed to leave Liberia,although he has set no date yet. A senior Liberian officialsaid Taylor would leave the country "sooner than expected."