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Taylor Bids Farewell to Presidency

August 11, 2003|From Associated Press

MONROVIA, Liberia — President Charles Taylor delivered a farewell address Sunday to a nation bloodied by 14 years of war, declaring himself the "sacrificial lamb" in the effort to end what he said was a U.S.-backed rebel war against his besieged regime.

Taylor, sitting solemnly with folded hands, recorded the address in front of a Liberian flag at his home in advance of handing power to Vice President Moses Blah today.

He accused the United States of arming Liberia's rebels and suggested that the war was motivated by U.S. eagerness for Liberian gold, diamonds and other reserves.

In Washington, a senior Bush administration official said it would be false to claim the United States is arming or funding rebels.

Speaking slowly, with a raspy voice, the Liberian leader declared: "I love this country very much. This is why I have decided to sacrifice my presidency. They can call off their dogs now. We can have peace."

It was a goodbye that few would hear in this desperate, war-divided capital -- its residents preoccupied with the search for food and lacking power to keep radio or TV stations on the air.

Two months of rebel sieges have left more than 1,000 civilians dead in the capital. Taylor controls little but downtown, referred to derisively by rebels as Taylor's "Federal Republic of Central Monrovia."

West African leaders had extracted Taylor's promise to leave office today and go into Nigerian exile at some unspecified time.

Taylor made no apologies -- but asked forgiveness from any he may have wronged, in what have been years of carnage.

Closing his speech, he declared: "I will always remember you wherever I am, and I say, God willing, I will be back."

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