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Friday, July 07, 2006

Protesters greet U.N.'s Annan in Liberia, Tuesday July 4, 2006

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) -- Hundreds of protesters demanding a war-crimes tribunal for Liberia carried fake coffins through the capital's streets Tuesday during a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the west African nation.

Annan met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who became Africa's first-ever elected female head of state in January, marking the end of a transitional period following Liberia's 1989-2003 civil war. Annan also addressed the legislature.

Annan didn't meet with the several hundred marchers.

"United Nations, we want those who committed heinous crimes against humanity in Liberia to be brought to justice through the establishment of a war crimes court," read one of the banners held by marchers.

About 300,000 of Liberia's 3 million people are believed to have died in the war, including large numbers of civilians targeted by marauding and often drugged fighters from all warring sides. The U.N. still has a 15,000-troop peacekeeping force in the country.

Ex-President Charles Taylor, a one-time warlord whose attacks began the war, awaits trial at the U.N. tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, on war crimes charges stemming from his alleged support of rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Liberia's war ended when Taylor, then president, fled into exile as rebels attacked the capital, Monrovia.

Liberia has started a South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which researched 34 years of human rights violations against blacks under apartheid.

But Liberia has no tribunal to prosecute crimes committed here and demonstrators demanded Monday that one be arranged.

Annan, meanwhile, addressed Liberia's newly elected lawmakers, including notorious former fighters and Taylor's ex-wife.

Annan called on the legislators to "turn diversities into strength and planning into consensus." But he cautioned change "will not happen overnight."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

Category: Liberia and Human Rights.

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