a test for the world's policeman

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    World watching US response to Liberia: Annan
    United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan says all eyes are on the United States to lead a multinational force to war-ravaged Liberia, but the decision lies with Washington.

    Mr Annan says Britain has recently worked with west African and UN peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, while France has led a multinational force to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and also helped to calm the situation in Ivory Coast.

    "West African countries are prepared to make their own contribution, but there is the expectation that the international, the wider international community would also be helpful," he said.

    "That is why I wrote a letter to the [UN] Security Council urging the deployment of a multinational force because the west African countries do not have the capacity, the logistical support, the airlift, to be able to do it urgently."

    The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss the situation in Liberia this morning.

    US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the United States is "looking at a range of options" in Liberia.

    Asked about US participation in a multinational force, Mr Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing: "That's a call the President (George W Bush) would make, if and when he decided to make such a call. And he has not."

    Mr Rumsfeld says the State Department has not requested an evacuation operation out of Monrovia.

    US forces are stretched thin by deployments abroad in areas which the Bush administration thinks are of greater strategic significance, especially Iraq and Afghanistan.

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