PARIS -- Interpol issued a call yesterday for the arrest of ousted Liberian leader Charles Taylor, putting him on its wanted list. But Nigeria, where Taylor, who has been indicted on war crimes charges, lives in exile, indicated that it would not be pressured into handing him over.
The wanted notice, posted on Interpol's website and distributed to the international police organization's 181 member nations, said the 55-year-old former warlord is sought for "crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions."
Attached was a photo of Taylor in a suit and tie and a warning in bold type: "Person may be dangerous." The notice added: "If you have any information, contact your national or local police."
In Nigeria, spokeswoman Remi Oyo said President Olusegun Obasanjo "has explained that he will not allow Nigeria to be intimidated" into surrendering Taylor to the UN-backed war crimes court for Sierra Leone, which requested the Interpol action.
"As far as we're concerned, this is not an Interpol affair, it is a political affair," Oyo said.
Obasanjo has said that if Liberia wants to try Taylor, he would ask him to go back. Otherwise, Oyo said, the Nigerian leader will keep his promise to safeguard Taylor "in the interests of peace and security in Liberia."
In Sierra Leone, chief war crimes prosecutor David Crane reiterated demands that Taylor be turned over for trial and said he would press Nigeria "to do its legal duty."
"There cannot be an African exception," Crane, an American, said. "If Charles Taylor is allowed to remain . . . under Nigerian protection, African leaders can get away with murder."
While Interpol's "red notices" cannot force countries to arrest or extradite a suspect, they announce that the Lyon, France-based police body is satisfied an arrest is justified. Taylor has lived in exile in southern Nigeria since early August, when he fled Liberia under international pressure as rebels laid siege to the capital, Monrovia.
Taylor launched Liberia into 14 years of conflict in 1989, when he led an initially small insurgency to overthrow the government. He has long been accused of fomenting discord in nearby nations, including Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
The Sierra Leone tribunal alleges that Taylor directed, supported, and trafficked guns and gems with that country's Revolutionary United Front rebels -- insurgents infamous for slicing limbs from civilians during a terror campaign from 1991 to 2000.