In a human cascade of welcome and relief, chanting crowds of Liberians swarmed the motorcade carrying a team of U.S. military experts as they ventured into Liberia's capital Tuesday morning to assess the city's humanitarian and security situation for a possible deployment of U.S. troops.
At the sight of American soldiers they believe can salvage their country after more than a decade of intermittent civil war, residents and refugees burst into song and rambunctious applause at every stop. Mothers led chants of "No more war! We want peace," men praised President Bush, and children clutched the visitors' hands and would not let go.
A crowd of Liberians cheered the Americans from a soccer stadium where several thousand have been living since civil war pushed them from their villages. More than 100,000 people have fled fighting in recent months between rebels and forces loyal to President Charles Taylor. A cease-fire has been in place since June 17.
After a morning briefing from aid agencies, the team climbed into eight SUVs to visit the makeshift places that shelter Liberia's uprooted population.
President Bush, who is considering dispatching troops to lead an "international stabilization force" in the West African nation of 3-million, said his decision will hinge in part on the 32-member team's assessment.