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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Bush Orders Troops Positioned Off Liberia

Aired July 25, 2003 - 11:23   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news coming in from the White House. The topic there earlier this morning had been just the Israeli/Palestinian issue. Now we're hearing there may be some other talk there at the White House about troop movement.
Let's go now to Chris Burns who's standing by at his post at the White House.

Chris, what are you hearing there?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, we just got a statement from the press secretary here, saying that there -- the U.S. will be making preparations to help a peace-keeping deployment by the ECOWAS West African countries.

And let me read to you the statement -- "The president has directed the secretary of defense to position appropriate military capabilities off the coast of Liberia. This country where it is in danger of descending into another bloodbath. And there is fighting even right now. In order to -support the deployment of a force once it is generated. The immediate task of the ECOWAS force is to reinforce the cease-fire, and to begin to create conditions where humanitarian assistance can be provided to the Liberian people."

As the United States has said before, Charles Taylor must leave. That is the president of Liberia who has been blamed for years of blood-letting, not only in Liberia, but throughout West Africa.

The statement goes on to say, "The U.S. role will be limited in time and scope, as multinational forces under the United Nations assume the responsibility for peace-keeping and as the United Nations arranges a political transition in Liberia.

But be careful now. If you look at the statement very closely, there's no promise about boots on the ground yet. What they're talking about is what has been hinted by White House officials for days, and even weeks, even during the president's visit to Africa, the last -- in the last few weeks, is that there could be logistical support, command and control. But as far as U.S. peacekeepers on the ground, even this statement does not promise that yet -- Leon.

HARRIS: Very interesting. But it does seem like it's something of a half step forward, at least on that issue. Thank you, Chris. Chris Burns at the White House, breaking that news for us.

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