FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – A U.N.-backed war crimes court indicted Liberian President Charles Taylor (search) on Wednesday, accusing him of "the greatest responsibility" in the vicious 10-year civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone (search).
Prosecutors at the Sierra Leone court issued an arrest warrant for Taylor in Ghana, where he was making a rare trip out of his own country to attend peace talks with Liberian rebels.
Ghana authorities said they had not yet received the arrest warrant. Minutes after the indictment was made public, Taylor appeared at the talks' opening ceremony in Accra, Ghana's capital.
Looking tense, Taylor stepped away from his motorcade and walked slowly into the conference hall with other west African officials. He made no comment to reporters.
The indictment, and arrest warrant, set up a potential showdown between prosecutors of the U.N.-endorsed court and Taylor.
West African mediators were expected to be reluctant to see Taylor taken into custody after they had invited him to Ghana for peace talks.
The indictment accused Taylor of "bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law" during Sierra Leone's civil war.
Taylor, Liberia's warlord-turned-president, is widely accused of backing Revolutionary United Front (search) insurgents as they fought their 10-year campaign for control of Sierra Leone's diamond fields and government.
The Sierra Leone rebels killed, maimed, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of civilians. Rebels made a trademark of lopping off the hands, feet, lips and ears of their victims.
Military intervention by the United Nations, the west African nation of Guinea and former Sierra Leone colonial ruler Britain ended the war in January 2002.
Americans and Britons are serving as prosecutors for the Sierra Leone war crimes court, which earlier indicted rebel leader Foday Sankoh, already in custody.
Taylor is fighting a 3-year rebel campaign in his own country. Rebels have left Taylor in control of only about 40 percent of his country, including the capital, Monrovia.
Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal differs from those of Rwanda and Yugoslavia in that its proceedings will be held in the country and include a mix of local and international prosecutors and judges. The court was created by an agreement between the United Nations and Sierra Leone.