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Local Liberians Seek Help From U.S. To End Civil War

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Liberians in North Carolina are watching closely the events in their home country and seeking U.S. assistance to end its civil war.

An organization called

Liberia First

held a dinner Saturday night commemorating the country's 156th birthday as an independent nation. It was less a celebration and more of a vigil, because many of the participants still have family in the war-torn country.

Emmanuel Gbedee is still waiting for the visas of his wife and two young sons to be approved so they can come to America. They live outside Monrovia, Liberia's capital, while he works in Durham.

Gbedee said waiting so long while violence continues in Liberia has been "like a nightmare.

"Just being here and knowing what they're going through back home," he said, "many nights I don't even sleep."

President Bush has ordered U.S. troops to the coast of Liberia to support the arrival of a West African peacekeeping force. North Carolina-based Marines could be part of that American contingency.

The Pentagon said a ship capable of carrying Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit will travel to the coast. The 26th MEU (mew) is based at Camp Lejeune.

Gunfire and fighting have forced Gbedee's family to move at least three times. Gbedee said he calls home daily but can't rest until his family is re-united.

"Right now," he said, "nowhere in Liberia is safe. It's only by the grace of God."

Gbedee is the secretary of Liberia First, Inc. Every year, the organization celebrates Liberia's independence with song, dance and celebration. But this year, the focus was on solemn reflection.

Members of Liberia First point out the fighting in their country has been going on for close to 15 years. So far, more than 200,000 people have died.

"A lot of us have been involved," Gbedee said. "There are a lot of people who have similar stories, and our prayer is to have the U.N. put an end to the crisis. Other than that, there is no way out."

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