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AMERICAN MORNING

White House Would Not Rule Out Sending Troops to Liberia

Aired July 2, 2003 - 08:06   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With President Bush traveling to Africa for the first time next week, the administration is talking about taking a more active role in stopping the violence which is continuing in the Western African nation of Liberia. Yesterday, the White House said it would not rule out sending troops to help calm Liberia's civil war.
For more on this, we turn to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

Well, we can now tell you that a team, a heavily armed team of Marines is on standby in Spain, ready to go in if the president orders. This would be a first element to go in. Their mission, if ordered by the president, will be to reinforce security at the embassy. We are told they could be on the ground in Monrovia within six hours of being notified to take off.

Now, as you say, the Bush administration meeting again today to discuss what to do about Liberia. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will attend that White House meeting. A senior official here saying Secretary Rumsfeld will offer what he calls the pluses and minuses of all of the military options for possible U.S. involvement there.

If the situation deteriorates further, we are also told the U.S. is prepared to send in special forces to help evacuate whatever Americans may be left in the country. But the options on the table are a wide range of options right now. They range from assisting African peacekeeping forces that may go in all the way to the possibility of a U.S. peacekeeping forces on the ground.

But here at the Pentagon, none of that is really an option that they are looking forward to. The U.S. military feels they are already stretched to the limit between Afghanistan and Iraq. But, as you say, a decision is expected one way or the other before the president leaves for Africa next week -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: An awful lot on the Pentagon plate.

Barbara Starr is watching it all for us.

Thank you very much.

Appreciate it.

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