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Liberia: Johnson-Sirleaf Poised to Win Election as Protests Erupt in Monrovia


United Nations peacekeepers and newly trained Liberian police have taken up strategic positions in parts of Monrovia to prevent any rioting. This comes as one of the two candidates in this week's run-off election, former soccer player George Weah, alleging massive vote fraud, is trying to get Liberia's Supreme Court to stop ballot counting. This has so far been denied.

U.N. peacekeepers and Liberian police blocked off roads around the U.S. embassy, the party headquarters of the other candidate, former finance minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, as well as the electoral commission.

Earlier, a running street protest involving hundreds of Mr. Weah's supporters was dispersed with tear gas in front of the U.S. embassy. Several peacekeepers as well as several protesters and bystanders were injured.

Mr. Weah's angry supporters, mostly young unemployed men, including a former combatant in the recent 14-year civil war, vowed to pursue the protest action.

"It's just the beginning because of what they did, it was not right. We came peacefully. We did a peaceful march and we want a peaceful solution. And then they decided fighting and throwing tear gas at us. So it's not fair. It was just the beginning, tomorrow we will be on the streets. We are not afraid of them, we want peace not pieces," said the combatant.

The latest results, with more than 97 percent of polling stations reporting, have Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf with over 59 percent of the vote to Mr. Weah's nearly 41 percent.

But the electoral commission says it has yet to receive any order from the Supreme Court to stop counting ballots.

At Mr. Weah's headquarters earlier Friday, the former footballer of the year, appealed for calm, telling his supporters he had made his request to the Supreme Court.

Another of his supporters, Moses, who has quit high school because he can't pay his fees, explained he has no more trust in the election commission known by its acronym NEC.

"We want to inform the NEC and the international community that the elections that they had in Liberia were not free and fair, were not transparent. We are prepared to stay on the street until NEC can come to our call, until the international community can come to our call," he said.

International observers have said the voting was generally positive, and that despite some minor problems, they did not see any evidence of massive cheating.

Mr. Weah won the first round with 28 percent of the vote, and in between the two rounds, got the support of many of the other failed candidates. His low second round tally has shocked many of his supporters. The election commission is investigating two complaints filed by his party.

Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, a grandmother known affectionately by her supporters as "Mama Ellen", canceled a news conference scheduled for Friday, in which she was expected to declare victory. She has said she would offer an important position to Mr. Weah in her government.

If she wins, she would become Africa's first female elected head of state. Final results are due before November 23.

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