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Nigeria dismissed as "an absolute falsehood" on Wednesday accusations by a spiritual adviser of former Liberian President Charles Taylor that the Nigerian president plotted to have Taylor assassinated.
ABUJA, April 5 (Reuters) - Nigeria dismissed as "an absolute falsehood" on Wednesday accusations by a spiritual adviser of former Liberian President Charles Taylor that the Nigerian president plotted to have Taylor assassinated.
Taylor, now held for trial for war crimes in Sierra Leone, was in exile in Nigeria from 2003 until last week, when he briefly disappeared before Nigerian police arrested him at a remote border post as he tried to flee into Cameroon.
Indian-American evangelical preacher Kilari Anand Paul, who helped persuade Taylor to leave office in 2003 as part of a deal to end 14 years of civil war in Liberia, has repeatedly accused the Nigerian government of "betraying" Taylor.
In interviews with international media, he has said Nigeria deliberately let Taylor leave his exile residence.
Paul, who says he has spoken several times to Taylor since he was handed over to the Sierra Leone court last Wednesday, said he had sent a letter to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo calling on him to resign over the Taylor saga.
"Mr. Taylor was set up to be assassinated ... They hatched a plan of letting Mr. Taylor escape so they could gun him down," he told Reuters by phone from Washington.
Obasanjo's spokeswoman, Remi Oyo, dismissed this: "This allegation is an absolute falsehood and completely unfounded".
The lack of a clear explanation from Nigerian authorities of how Taylor got away and was then arrested has given rise to numerous conspiracy theories. Nigeria has denied it played a part in his brief disappearance.
Taylor pleaded not guilty on Monday to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role backing rebels who raped and mutilated civilians and recruited child soldiers during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.
After Nigeria said last month it was ready to give up Taylor to Liberian custody, the two governments appeared for a while to be at odds over the handover. Despite international calls for security around his residence to be tightened, Taylor got away and then was caught.
Nigeria arrested 22 of its security officers attached to Taylor, but as soon as he was detained it disbanded an official panel of inquiry into his disappearance.
The U.N.-backed Freetown court has asked the Netherlands to hold his trial in The Hague, citing fears keeping him in Sierra Leone could provoke unrest there and in Liberia.
Dutch officials say if the venue is switched to The Hague, Taylor would have to leave the Netherlands after the verdict.
The Swedish news agency TT reported on Wednesday the United Nations had asked Sweden, among other countries, to consider hosting Taylor in one of its prisons if he was convicted. (Additional reporting by Nick Tattersall in Freetown)