MONROVIA, LIBERIA, JUNE 14 -- A senior U.S. Embassy official, speaking to a crowd of several thousand Liberian demonstrators, today strongly suggested that President Samuel K. Doe resign to bring peace to this West African country.
Recalling a recent vow by the Liberian leader, who pledged in a public address that he was willing to make "any sacrifice" for peace, the U.S. charge d'affaires, Dennis Jett, declared, "I would like those Liberians who said they would do anything they could to bring about peace in this country, to bring it about."
Jett's words triggered a tremedous cheer from the demonstrators, who marched throughout the city in a driving rain today waving peace banners and singing a popular American protest song with changed lyrics. To the tune of "We Shall Overcome," the crowd sang "no more death squads now" and "put your weapons down."
The statement by Jett, the embassy's ranking diplomat here, was the furthest that any American official has gone publicly in urging Doe to resign. Rebels of the National Patriotic Front have demanded that Doe, who has ruled since a coup 10 years ago, step down as a precondition for any peace settlement in the six-month-old civil war.
The U.S. government, traditionally Liberia's closest ally, has sharply cut economic and military support in recent years to the Doe regime, target of persistent accusations of corruption and human rights offenses. Still, the United States has two military advisers stationed here to monitor Liberian army operations, and most of Liberia's soldiers remain outfitted with American-made uniforms and weapons.
Tonight, a U.S. Embassy official said Doe has not shown any intentions of quitting.
"He says he is afraid about what would happen to the country," the official said. "He is concerned about confusion." The U.S. official said Doe seems to be generally in touch with the country's crisis but has "an inflated view" of his army's ability to solve it.
Reporters were barred from attending today's session of a court-martial of four soldiers accused of killing three civilians over the weekend. According to a U.S. official, two of the defendants belong to Doe's presidential guard.
Last night in Freetown, capital of neighboring Sierra Leone, officials representing both sides in the Liberian peace talks issued a joint statement calling on rebel and government troops to cease brutalities against civilians.