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Taylor sets date to step down

Taylor
Taylor speaks to reporters after meeting with West African diplomats Saturday.

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SPECIAL REPORT
special report
Interactive: The U.S. and Liberia
Profile: Charles Taylor
Fact Sheet: Liberia
LIBERIA PEACEKEEPERS
12-member fact-finding team is in Liberia

About 2,000 U.S. Marines expected to arrive offshore soon
750-strong ECOWAS team from Nigeria due to arrive Monday

Another Nigerian battalion will bring numbers to 1,500

A 5,000-strong West African force to be deployed, made up mostly of 3,250 peacekeepers from Ghana, Mali, Benin, Senegal and Togo by October 1

U.N. to provide logistical support

MONROVIA, Liberia (CNN) -- After meeting with West African diplomats, Liberian President Charles Taylor said he has agreed to step down on August 11.

Taylor told reporters he would hand over power to his successor at 11:59 a.m. on August 11 and that the new president would be sworn in at midday.

Liberia's National Assembly will meet Thursday to pick the new president, Taylor said.

Under Liberia's constitution, that role would fall to Vice President Moses Blah, but he and Speaker of the House Nyudueh Morkonmana are jostling for power, CNN's Jeff Koinange said.

Taylor spoke outside the executive mansion in the capital Monrovia on Saturday after a two-hour session with West African diplomats in which he agreed to step down following the arrival of peacekeepers.

The delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) told Taylor that a 2,500-strong, Nigerian-led peacekeeping force would begin to arrive in Liberia on Monday.

It wasn't clear when Taylor would leave Liberia or where he would go. When asked about his expected departure from the country, Taylor said: "I'm not going to tell you right now."

"The most important thing is, everything that we have said about resigning and leaving will happen," Taylor told reporters.

Taylor had pledged earlier to go into exile in Nigeria, but his spokesman had recently cast doubt on that promise.

The White House reacted to Taylor's promise to step down August 11 by again calling on him to leave the country.

U.S. President George W. Bush "has made clear that he's got to leave," a senior administration official told CNN after Taylor's announcement.

Taylor's departure is one of Washington's stipulations before agreeing to help the peacekeeping effort in Liberia.

The ECOWAS delegation had been expected to meet with Taylor on Friday, but the president was in the city of Buchanan, where fresh fighting had broken out, and arrived back in Monrovia Saturday.

Sporadic fighting is continuing in the country, and both sides say they plan to fight until the peacekeepers arrive.

In Monrovia, government forces were pushing rebels back across a bridge toward the port, Koinange said, while the second city of Buchanan remained in rebel hands.

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution to authorize a multinational force to go into Liberia, by a vote of 12-0. Three countries: France, Germany and Mexico -- abstained from the vote. (Full story)

A 12-member reconnaissance team, made up of Nigerian, Ghanaian, U.S. and British personnel, arrived Wednesday in Monrovia to prepare for the arrival of the peacekeepers.

-- CNN correspondents Jeff Koinange in Monrovia and Chris Burns in Washington contributed to this report


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