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S. Leone Rebel Can Meet Followers

March 28, 1999

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) _ Sierra Leone will allow an imprisoned rebel leader to meet with his followers in Togo next month in hopes of halting a brutal civil war.

In an address to the nation Sunday, President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah said Foday Sankoh, the charismatic founder of the Revolutionary United Front, or RUF, will be allowed to travel to the nearby West African nation on April 18 to meet with rebel officers at a neutral venue.

Kabbah said the government hoped to enter peace talks with the rebels after the meeting, and said he expected a cease-fire by April 27 _ Sierra Leone’s independence day.

``I challenge the RUF to take a collective decision for a genuine and lasting peace,″ Kabbah said. ``On behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, I say to the RUF: ’Come on brothers and sisters, enough is enough.‴

Kabbah called on the rebels to draft a peace proposal ahead of the meeting to speed along the talks.

Sankoh, convicted of treason and mass murder and sentenced to death last October, publicly urged his forces this month to talk peace, but senior rebel officers said they would continue fighting.

The rebels, who are battling to oust Kabbah and control swathes of the country’s lush interior, have frequently changed their demands.

Rebel officials were not available for comment Sunday.

The international community has condemned the rebels for killing, raping and maiming thousands of civilians in a bid to sow terror and confusion.

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