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U.S. AIRLIFTS WARLORD OUT OF LIBERIA

The United States airlifted former warlord Roosevelt Johnson out of Liberia on Friday to end a week-old standoff that began when he took refuge inside the American Embassy.

A helicopter swooped down on a small landing pad at the back of the sprawling embassy compound, picked up Johnson and ferried him away amid heavily armed protection. A second helicopter arrived shortly after to pick up several other people.

In Washington, U.S. officials said the helicopters -- supplied by a Nigerian-led peacekeeping force -- would fly Johnson to neighboring Sierra Leone en route to a third country that was not disclosed.

The evacuation came after days of talks between U.S. officials in Washington and President Charles Taylor's government.

Taylor urged the United States to hand Johnson over, but the president's spokesman on Thursday said there would be no effort to block Johnson's evacuation.

Johnson, Taylor's main rival, was holed up at the embassy in the capital, Monrovia, since Liberian soldiers tried to arrest him last week on charges of treason.

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