West African leaders called off a one-day emergency summit on the Liberian civil war Wednesday, saying the meeting was not necessary.
Ghanaian Foreign Minister Obed Asamoah said the nine members of the Economic Community of West African States decided instead to call on Liberian officials to adhere to a peace accord they helped to broker last year.But conference sources said the real reason for the cancellation was the absence of most heads of state, including Nigerian military leader Gen. Sani Abacha.
Also absent were Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah, leaders of the two militia groups whose month-long battle with a rival faction has destroyed the Liberian capital of Monrovia and killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people since April 6.
Taylor and Kromah are also members of Liberia's ruling Council of State, and their absence from the talks would have made it difficult to implement any agreement.
"Certain steps are going to be required of the Liberians and factional leaders to show good faith and commitment to put the Abuja Accord back on track within two months," Asamoah said. Last year's peace accord was brokered in Abuja, Nigeria.
"The council of ministers will monitor and make recommendations to the regular summit" of the West African nations in August, he said.
The nine West African nations spent most of Wednesday's meeting discussing their agenda. While they were talking, heavy fighting erupted again in Monrovia.
Asamoah, of Ghana, said earlier Wednesday the talks would focus on amending the timetable set in the August 1995 peace accord for disarming 60,000 militiamen in Liberia and holding elections by August.
He called on other countries to contribute logistical and financial aid to strengthen the 12,000-member West African peacekeeping force. Some 10,000 peacekeepers in Liberia, most of them Nigerians, have done little to curb the fighting.
The United States has long ties with Liberia, founded by freed American slaves in 1847, and sent special envoy Dane Smith to the meeting. The White House has pledged $30 million to strengthen the West African peacekeeping force, but continued fighting could jeopardize that offer.
Taylor, who touched off Liberia's 6-year-old civil war with a failed power grab, said he did not attend the talks because his presence was required in Monrovia to try to stanch the violence.