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Nigeria agrees to hand Taylor over to Liberia

Exiled former Liberian president indicted on war crimes charges

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Charles Taylor speaks at a news conference in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on June 7, 1999.

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(CNN) -- The Nigerian government on Saturday agreed to allow Liberian authorities to arrest exiled leader Charles Taylor and return him to Liberia, where he is accused of war crimes.

Nigerian government spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode said the agreement followed a meeting late Friday between representatives of both nations.

Nigeria has resisted calls to hand over Taylor, citing its agreement with Taylor granting him safe asylum.

The Liberians say Taylor could be back in the coming weeks.

On March 17, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf asked Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to hand Taylor over.

Taylor's exile to Nigeria was part of a peace deal three years ago that helped bring an end to Liberia's civil war, which killed some 200,000 people.

Taylor was indicted in 2003 by a U.N.-backed court in neighboring Sierra Leone on charges of war crimes related to his support for rebels in that country who were committing widespread atrocities. He was president of Liberia from 1997 until forced out of office in 2003.

Taylor reportedly supplied arms to the Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for diamonds.

Taylor is being monitored but is not under Nigerian house arrest. It is conceivable that he could flee to avoid detention. Obasanjo is scheduled to meet with President Bush in Washington on Wednesday and Taylor's status is expected to be on the agenda.

The Nigerian decision was made after consultations with the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.

Taylor is banned from traveling outside Nigeria under a previous U.N. resolution, which a U.N. panel has said he has violated by traveling within Africa.

CNN's Jeff Koinange and Liz Neisloss contributed to this report.

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