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Taylor: 'I will step down and give peace a chance'

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SPECIAL REPORT
special report
Interactive: The U.S. and Liberia
Profile: Charles Taylor
Fact Sheet: Liberia

MONROVIA, Liberia (CNN) -- West African peacekeeping forces were cheered Thursday as they arrived in Liberia's capital city of Monrovia. Thousands of civilians danced and waved at a convoy of 400 troops making its way through the city.

Embattled Liberian President Charles Taylor joined CNN's Paula Zahn to discuss his plans to leave the nation.

ZAHN: My first question to you, sir, is, when do you plan to leave your country?

TAYLOR: Everyone keeps asking me when am I going to leave my country. It's still a secret of whether I'm going to leave. I can assure you that I'll be here not one minute longer than necessary. My movement is a matter of security. But it will happen sooner than later.

ZAHN: All right. Will you, as reported, step down on Monday, and then at some point after that head to Nigeria?

TAYLOR: I will be stepping down on Monday. I said to the world and the Liberian people on the 4th of June that for the sake of peace, and because I love my people, I will step down and give peace a chance. I will do that on Monday. Then I'll leave thereafter.

ZAHN: Is the United States guaranteeing you a safe passage to Nigeria?

TAYLOR: Is your question suggesting that there is an obstacle?

ZAHN: No.

TAYLOR: I expect to hand over power and leave Liberia, and go to Nigeria.

ZAHN: So you do not expect any problems, then, with your retreat from Liberia and your trip into Nigeria?

TAYLOR: The only situation confronting me in this republic is that of an indictment from a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) union court. May I just state to you that our court is not a chapter-saving (ph) court in the issue of reciprocity, and Nigeria has chosen to ignore that court, and I will be going to Nigeria.

I have, however, filed papers in the International Court of Justice challenging the legitimacy of that court, and its jurisdiction over a sitting president of Liberia.

ZAHN: There are a lot of questions being asked about what kind of deal you might have cut with Nigeria to get asylum. Can you tell us on the record tonight whether you are able to go to Nigeria, and whether your expectation is that any of the war crime indictments will be dropped against you?

TAYLOR: Well, I think, Paula, it would be normal for these indictments to be dropped.

There were no deals struck with Nigeria. [Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo] and other African leaders of the African Union and ECOWAS have all seen the political nature of this case. They've looked at it, and have seen that as African brothers, they ought to help a situation in Liberia where I have volunteered to step down.

They see no reason why I should be harassed, and have gone ahead to ask me to come to Nigeria. I Will go to Nigeria, God willing, and while I'm there, I expect that this issue will be dealt with.

However, I have not waited for that. I've just said that we've filed papers, both in the court in Sierra Leone, and in the International Court of Justice, challenging the jurisdiction and legitimacy of this court.

ZAHN: Did the United States government offer you anything that sped up your leaving your country?

TAYLOR: I've spoken to no one at the State Department or the Bush government. All I have heard from the Bush administration are pronouncements on CNN and other television stations. There's been no contact whatsoever.

ZAHN: President Taylor, finally tonight, we have been reporting all day long that Black Hawk helicopters landed with U.S. Marines. Is it your expectation that there will be more U.S. Marines in your capital city soon?

TAYLOR: Yes. I would hope so. We welcome them in Liberia. As president, I've welcomed them. I do not think whatever that United States soldier will have any problems in Liberia.

I hope President Bush and the Bush administration will seize this moment in time and in history to do something constructive for the Liberian people and the Liberian nation. We Liberians feel that they owe it to us. They ought to do something for us.

We're looking forward, and I think this is a challenge to President Bush, and I guess, from what I can see as a man of God, I expect that he will live up to this challenge and do something for the Liberian people.

ZAHN: President Charles Taylor, thank you for your time this evening.

Just a quick rejoinder, as a reminder of what the Bush administration has been saying all along, they have accused Mr. Taylor of being one of the instigators of the civil war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, created up to 1 million refugees, and shattered Liberia's infrastructure.


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