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Ghana admits boat refugees

Ghana agreed yesterday to take about 3,000 Liberian war refugees who spent 10 days as outcasts sailing the West African coast in a battered freighter.

"Ghana believes that these innocent civilians should not be be made to suffer any more for the failure of their political and faction leaders to reach a peaceful solution of their differences," said the deputy foreign minister, Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

The Nigerian cargo ship Bulk Challenge left the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on 5 May and had already docked twice at the Ghanaian port of Takoradi before yesterday's decision. Food and water were in short supply and three people on board had died.

In Geneva, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees said Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings had agreed to take the refugees.

"Ghanaian authorities are requesting UN assistance to care for the refugees. We're standing by ready to help as we said we would be," said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond.

An eruption of heavy fighting shattered two days of relative calm in Monrovia yesterday, one day after hand-shakes and professions of peace between rival gunmen.

The US embassy, which is protected by marines, advised its staff to move around the seafront compound with extreme caution after fighting moved towards it.

Witnesses said shooting began before dawn after fighters loyal to the dominant faction leaders, Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah, advanced towards ethnic Krahn rivals in and around the Barclay Training Centre barracks.

Battles between the two sides since 6 April have shattered a 1995 accord on ending a six-year civil war and triggered an exodus of refugees.