PEACEKEEPERS BLUNT REBEL DRIVE ON MONROVIA

A heavily armed West African peacekeeping force battled fighters loyal to rebel leader Charles Taylor yesterday in a struggle for Liberia's refugee-choked capital.

Mr. Taylor's rebels attacked Monrovia a week ago, starting the worst fighting there since West Africa's ECOMOG force blocked his assault in late 1990. Rebels retaliated against the heavy pounding of the multinational force with small arms fire and commando raids into the capital. They also cut the city's water supply, and communications with the outside world have been broken off.

Battles between the the rebels and ECOMOG have raged around the northeastern suburb of Paynesville, and to the northwest near Monrovia.

The peacekeeping force intervened two years ago, and backed an interim government established in Monrovia. Nigeria has flown in more than 300 reinforcements and ammunition since Saturday. Other countries contributing troops to the force include Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, and Mali.

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