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Timeline: Liberia: from civil war chaos to fragile hope

(Reuters) - From 1989-2003, Liberia became for many a byword for savagery as up to a quarter of a million people were killed in a civil war, while thousands more were mutilated and raped, often by armies of drugged child soldiers led by ruthless warlords.

Here is a short timeline of events from 1989, plotting its fragile stability since the war and the growing hopes of future oil and iron riches if the runoff presidential election since the conflict passes off smoothly and bolsters peace.

1989 - Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) begins an uprising against the government of President Samuel Doe, who himself came to power in a coup in 1980.

1990 - Peacekeeping troops of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervene in Liberia. Doe’s torture and killing by an NPFL splinter group is recorded on video.

1997 - After several years of chaotic, stop-go fighting, Taylor wins a presidential election.

July 2000 - Stability remains elusive. Government reports first attacks by rebels who identify themselves as Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

2003 - Rebels close in on Monrovia; a new rebel force, Movement for Democracy in Liberia (Model), emerges. Taylor is indicted by a U.N.-backed war crimes court for his alleged role in fuelling Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.

June 2003 - Warring factions sign a ceasefire leading to talks to form a transition government without Taylor. In July, Taylor, under U.S. pressure, accepts Nigerian offer of asylum.

August 2003 - Nigerian soldiers arrive as part of new African peacekeeping force, to be followed by a U.N. force. Government and rebels sign a peace deal setting up new transitional administration to prepare for elections in 2005. In the months that follow, an interim leader is appointed and rebel fighters hand in weapons under U.N.-backed disarmament scheme.

October 11, 2005 - Parliamentary election and first round of presidential election. Former soccer star George Weah comes first, but loses a November 8 run-off against Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

May 1, 2007 - Liberia relaunches its diamond trade after the United Nations lifts embargo.

February 21, 2008 - U.S. President George W. Bush promises steadfast U.S. support for Liberia’s recovery from its crippling civil war after a visit to a friendly ally.

February 12, 2009 - President Johnson-Sirleaf admits to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission she initially backed the rebellion led by Taylor but was misled into supporting the man who is now on trial for war crimes in The Hague.

July 12, 2011 - U.S. major Chevron Corp says it plans to start drilling its first deepwater well off the coast of Liberia by the end of the year.

Sept 27 - Steel giant ArcelorMittal says it has formally started iron ore production in Liberia.

Oct 7 - Johnson-Sirleaf, along with two other women, wins the Nobel peace prize.

Oct 11 - First round of presidential election at which Johnson-Sirleaf takes nearly 44 percent of the vote. Chief rival, former U.N. diplomat, Winston Tubman, took 33 percent.

-- Four days later, nine Liberian opposition parties, including Johnson-Sirleaf’s two main challengers, reject election results announced so far but the poll organizers say the vote has been credible.

Oct 18 - Johnson-Sirleaf wins the endorsement of the third-place finisher, former warlord Prince Johnson. Johnson got 11.6 percent.

Nov 4 - Tubman says he will not take part in the run-off vote but the election commission says a vote will take place.

Nov 8 - Presidential election runoff.

Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit