FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- The plight of 347 U.N. peacekeepers held by rebels dominated efforts to resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone on Tuesday, with mediator Liberia advising against fresh attacks on their captors.

A spokesman for Liberian President Charles Taylor, whose friendship and past support for Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel leader Foday Sankoh make him a key player in resolving the crisis, said that Taylor was keen to see a cease-fire."The president's concern here is 'What if someone were to get hurt?' " Reginald Goodridge told Kiss FM radio station in Liberia's capital Monrovia on Tuesday, two days after the rebels, who owe at least nominal loyalty to Sankoh, freed 139 hostages. "If the fighting continues, who knows what may happen."

But Jesse Jackson, President Clinton's envoy and an architect of the 1999 Lome agreement that temporarily ended Sierra Leone's civil war, took a stronger line, blaming Sankoh and his men for its breakdown.

"First and foremost I'd like to make it clear that Foday Sankoh and the RUF alone are responsible for the current crisis in Sierra Leone," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"I condemn fully and unequivocally the violations of the Lome agreement by the RUF," added Jackson before leaving Washington for West Africa, where he will arrive on Wednesday.

U.S. officials said Jackson would reinforce efforts to secure the release of the hostages and revive the peace process.

His task is complicated by the continued absence of Sankoh, who has not been seen since a shooting at his home on May 8.

If Sankoh is dead it is unknown who, if anyone, now leads the rebels. A former RUF field commander, Sam "General Mosquito" Bockarie, is in exile in Monrovia under Taylor's protection.

"It might be correct to say the men take orders from me more than Sankoh," Bockarie told a Monrovia radio station on Tuesday.

Sierra Leone's information ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that there had been no fighting overnight. "All is quiet in all operational areas," it said.

One witness from the central Makeni area, quoted by The Democrat newspaper in Freetown on Tuesday, said the rebels had split most of the remaining hostages into small groups -- four per rebel command unit -- and taken them to nearby villages.

Forty of the freed 139 hostages spent the night in Monrovia. U.N. officials said that the others would be flown there from the Liberian border town of Foya, for airlifting to Sierra Leone's capital Freetown.

Some 500 U.N. peacekeepers and military observers, mostly from Zambia, were taken hostage in early May by the RUF when it went back on the offensive after a dispute over disarmament in the Makeni area.

The RUF, a force believed to number up to 15,000 fighters, was blamed for large-scale atrocities against civilians during the 1991-99 civil war. Their offensive wrong-footed the ill- prepared U.N. force and at one stage threatened the capital Freetown. A British evacuation force helped the U.N. bolster the defenses of the city.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Monday that the former British colony's lifeblood diamond mines, most of which are held by the rebels, must be brought back under government control and administration.

His Nigerian special representative in Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, called for restraint by all sides and a return to the status quo and positions occupied by the rival forces before the crisis erupted.

He said in Freetown on Monday that he was advising President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's forces and their militia allies to show restraint out of concern for the welfare of the hostages.

The fledgling Sierra Leone Army (SLA) and its allies scored successes against the rebels over the weekend.