Originally created 04/12/98

Carter ends Liberia trip with praise



MONROVIA, Liberia -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter ended a two-day visit Saturday to Liberia, where he praised progress made by the government of warlord-turned-President Charles Taylor but warned it must respect human rights.

"Future loans and grants as well as investments will obviously be affected greatly by progress and protection of human rights and good governance," Mr. Carter said at a Friday night press conference.

While the violence that tore at Liberia from 1989-1996 is over, Mr. Taylor's critics say he accepts little criticism, harshly punishes those who anger him and has cracked down on the press.

Some people especially fear that the fledgling security services may not be properly trained and could be dominated by former fighters from Mr. Taylor's civil-war faction.

Mr. Carter, though, said he was satisfied with Liberia's security so far.

"I think the people have confidence in the security situation here, particularly with ECOMOG present," he said of the Nigerian-led West African peacekeeping force that is helping keep the peace in Liberia.

Mr. Carter said he told Mr. Taylor during their Friday meeting that he shared Mr. Taylor's concern that ECOMOG was overly dominated by one country. Mr. Taylor has tense relations with ECOMOG and its Nigerian commanders.

The peacekeeping contingent "cannot be a Nigerian force," said Mr. Carter, who added that he did recognize that country's contribution to regional security.

Mr. Carter and his wife Rosalyn is on an 11-day African tour aimed at promoting his Atlanta-based Carter Center anti-disease programs and peace efforts.

Mr. Carter, who briefly visited Liberia in 1977 while he was president, left Saturday for neighboring Guinea. The Carters earlier visited Mozambique, South Africa, Mali and Ivory Coast.