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Liberia asks Nigeria to hand over exiled former president

The Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was credited with helping to end Liberia's civil war when he helped to arrange Mr Taylor's asylum, says he is consulting with other African leaders on how to respond to the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

African leaders have been reluctant to see former presidents or dictators brought to justice. Some argue that a major push to put leaders on trial would encourage those in power to resist democratic change.

President Sirleaf, who was elected last year, has been edging closer to joining the US, the UN and Sierra Leone in calling for Mr Taylor to be tried. Yesterday she said she wanted a collective African decision.

She said she told President Obasanjo: "It's time to bring the Taylor issue to closure. He [Obasanjo] is now consulting with the Africa leadership to be able to achieve that objective."

Mr Taylor plunged Liberia into years of civil war in 1989, when he led a small rebel band that invaded from Ivory Coast. He was elected President in 1997 during a lull in fighting. He is accused of committing crimes against humanity while in office by aiding and directing rebels in Sierra Leone, and has been indicted by a UN tribunal.

It was not clear who could take custody of Mr Taylor - Liberia or the Sierra Leone war crimes court. He has lived in exile in the southern Nigerian city of Calabar since 2003.AP