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Albright To Meet With RUF Leaders

October 18, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ With its history of murder and mutilation, the Revolutionary United Front insurgency of Sierra Leone stands out on an African continent often known for the brutality of its politics.

Nonetheless, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright planned to meet with RUF leaders today in Sierra Leone, seeing them as the key to successful implementation of a July peace deal that ended an eight-year civil war.

The meeting was taking place after an overnight flight by Albright, who is undertaking a six-nation tour of Africa.

As part of the treaty, the RUF leaders will share power with the elected government. Albright was expected to appeal for implementation of the agreement, including disarmament of combatants and release of prisoners.

Although there has been no official announcement, Albright was likely to meet with RUF leader Foday Sankoh. She also planned to spend time with war victims and visit a camp for demobilization of former guerrilla fighters.

Her day was beginning with a brief airport stop in neighboring Guinea. During her six days in Africa, she also will visit Mali, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania.

Many Sierra Leoneans are skeptical about the promises of peace offered by the rebel leaders after they oversaw the killings of tens of thousands, the mutilation of countless others and the devastation of much of the West African nation. More than one-third of the country’s population has been uprooted from their homes.

One of the keys to the July peace treaty was an amnesty for the RUF leaders and their allies despite the atrocities they committed. This was seen as the only route, however distasteful, to ending the bloodletting.

Susan Rice, Albright’s top aide for Africa, told reporters Friday that peace will never come to Sierra Leone unless the RUF leaders are dealt with.

Lest there be any misinterpretation about having a dialogue with those leaders, Rice said, ``We abhor the atrocities that the RUF have committed.″

She noted that Albright also met earlier in a similar context with rebel leaders from Angola and Mozambique even though they had committed ``horrible, horrible crimes.″

The New York-based International League for Human Rights says little has changed in Sierra Leone in the more than 100 days since the peace treaty was signed.

Few provisions have been implemented and promised financial support has been slow in coming, the committee said in a report.

``The momentum that all parties involved in the peace process promised to seize is rapidly dissipating,″ it said.

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