Rebel leader Charles Taylor, the man accused of prolonging Liberia's civil war, on announced a unilateral cease-fire Friday and said he hoped all warring parties would comply, according to a news report.
The French news agency Agence France-Presse said Taylor considered a West African army task force in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, to be among the warring parties.Nigeria announced Friday it was taking command of the five-nation force and would send a general with orders to fight until the 9-month-old civil war is over. More than 5,000 Liberians have died in the unrest.
Agence France-Presse said Taylor announced the cease-fire at a news conference in the Liberian town of Kakata, 80 miles northeast of Monrovia, where it has a correspondent traveling with the rebels.
The State Department in Washington confirmed the cease-fire announcement.
Earlier this week, Herman Cohen, assistant U.S. secretary of state, met separately with Taylor and rival rebel leader Prince Johnson and told them a cease-fire was an essential first step for a negotiated settlement.
Taylor said his army, the largest in Liberia, would stop fighting at noon Saturday.
"I hope all the warring factions of Liberia will profit from this truce and use it to discuss the future of our country," AFP quoted Taylor as saying.
Other forces include Johnson's breakaway rebel faction, remnants of slain President Samuel Doe's army and the 3,000-member West African force.
It was not known whether the task force or Johnson's group would join in the cease-fire.
Military sources in Lagos said the change of command from Lt. Gen. Arnold Quainoo of Ghana to Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro was seen as a declaration of war against Taylor.
But a Ghanaian government spokesman said Nigeria had made a unilateral decision to take over the 3,000-member task force and implied there could be a dispute with other nations that have sent troops. The other nations are Guinea, Sierra Leone and Gambia.
Taylor's chief spokesman, Tom Woewiyu, said Friday they were ready to go to a peace conference, but only if the West African soldiers withdrew.
The 16-nation Economic Community of West African States sent the five-nation task force to Liberia.
It says the war is a regional issue because thousands of West African civilians are trapped in Liberia, and neighboring states are burdened by more than 500,000 refugees from the fighting.
Ghana and Nigeria each have about 1,000 soldiers in Liberia. Another 1,000 Nigerian soldiers on a warship in Freetown, Sierra Leone, are preparing to reinforce the army. Several hundred Ghanaian soldiers also are in Freetown, waiting to go to Liberia.
Washington has sent 2,100 Marines to Liberia, but they have orders only to evacuate foreigners and guard U.S. property.