WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton said Friday he will lead a delegation of prominent black Americans to Liberia (search) to urge President Charles Taylor and opposition forces to cooperate in a peaceful democratic election.
Sharpton says President Bush has not been clear about his plans to bring new leadership to Liberia, a West African nation founded by freed American slaves in the 19th century. He said it's important that black Americans and other African leaders work toward establishing a new government.
"It must clearly lead to an objective democratic process," Sharpton said in a telephone interview. "It cannot just lead to unilateral regime change. Otherwise Bush is bringing the worst of his Iraqi policies to Africa."
Bush, in Africa this week on a five-nation tour, faces growing international pressure to send troops to Liberia. Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) said Thursday that a decision could come in days.
Bush remained noncommittal this week and repeated his demand that Taylor resign as a first step to restoring peace. Taylor, a one-time warlord accused of war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, has promised to step down, clearing the way for a transitional government to oversee elections.
Sharpton said he will make the trip in the next couple of weeks and be accompanied by Cornel West, an African-American studies scholar at Princeton University; the Rev. Al Sampson of Chicago; attorney Lewis Meyers; and Akbar Muhammad, Islam expert and Africana studies professor at New York's Binghamton University.
Sharpton said the group met Thursday in New York and has gotten initial indications from people connected to Taylor and opposition groups that they would be interested in meeting with the delegation. Sharpton said the trip will be funded by private businesses and is not connected to his presidential campaign.
Sharpton said he will also seek a meeting with leaders of other African nations, including former South African President Nelson Mandela (search).