MONROVIA, LIBERIA, AUG. 25 -- A West African peace-keeping force sent to Liberia fanned out from the port of Monrovia today and clashed with the forces of rebel leader Charles Taylor.

Military sources said five soldiers of the peace-keeping force were wounded in fighting near the port with Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia, which opposes intervention by the West African nations, charging that they are trying to keep President Samuel Doe in power. The sources said three of the five were in an armored car hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The Economic Community of West African States assembled the force from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, Gambia and Ghana to halt the fighting between two rebel factions and Doe's dwindling army that has resulted in the deaths of more than 5,000 people, mostly civilians.

Small-arms fire echoed around the port, punctuated by the boom of artillery, as the West African force came ashore.

The shooting was between Taylor's forces and a separate rebel group led by Prince Johnson, who controls the port. But the peace-keeping force soon came under fire from Taylor's rebels.

Taylor's force, which controls most of the Liberian countryside, attacked Monrovia's port Friday to try to prevent the force of nearly 4,000 West Africans from landing.

But Johnson's fighters repelled the attackers after a 13-hour battle, and the peace-keeping force, embarked on the Ghanaian container ship Tano River and a fleet of six Nigerian and Ghanaian naval vessels, later docked without incident. {Johnson, who broke from the ranks of Taylor's rebellion some months ago, greeted them as they disembarked, the Associated Press reported.}

Units of the peace-keeping force fanned out from the port today to secure strategic points, including two bridges over the Mesurado River leading to the city center. Other soldiers unloaded vehicles, supplies and ammunition, and set up offices and field kitchens in port buildings.

The wharf was littered with spent cartridges from recent fighting. A body in civilian clothes floated nearby.

Johnson's fighters wandered in bands through the port and nearby suburbs armed with a motley selection of automatic rifles and shotguns.

Johnson said in an interview today that his forces had been observing a cease-fire with Doe's troops for more than a week but were still fighting Taylor's rebels. Doe is confined to a small area of Monrovia around his seaside mansion, guarded by about 500 loyal soldiers. Johnson said he was fighting for free and fair elections, and had no designs on the presidency or a government post.

"I am just a military man," he said, indicating his lieutenant's insignia.