The United States flew President Charles Taylor's ethnic Krahn rival Roosevelt Johnson out of Liberia on Friday, ending a tense stand-off that began after he took refuge at the U.S. Embassy nearly a week ago.
The U.S. State Department said Johnson, one of Taylor's foes in a seven-year civil war which ended with multi-party elections in 1997, traveled by helicopter to Sierra Leone on his way to an unspecified third country in West Africa.Taylor's government accuses Johnson of treason, murder, rape and kidnapping.
U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington that Johnson would be tried in absentia. U.S. diplomats in Monrovia said the understanding was that Johnson would be returned to Liberia if he was found guilty.
The diplomats said the next few days could be difficult for the embassy, particularly after Taylor left on Sunday for an official visit to France, but Rubin expressed hopes the two countries could put the problem behind them.
"It appears that the situation has been resolved satisfactorily and we look forward to continuing our work with the government and people of Liberia as they embark on the important task of rebuilding that war-tattered country," he told a briefing.
Johnson fled to the embassy on Sept. 19 after Taylor's security forces moved against his supporters in the Camp Johnson Road area of the city center, which officials said had become "an untouchable enclave."