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US Committed to Liberia's Full Recovery From Civil War, Official Says - 2004-03-05


A top State Department official says the United States is committed to making sure Liberia fully recovers from 14 years of civil war. The United States is complementing efforts led by the United Nations. As part of her first trip to Liberia as deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa, Pamela Bridgewater met with Liberia's transitional leader, Gyude Bryant, Friday to reinforce what she called "a steadfast partnership." She said the meeting was a follow-up to last month's U.S. government pledge of $200 million out of more than $500 million promised to Liberia at a donor conference in New York.

"I wanted to discuss with Chairman Bryant the ways that we are following up on the reconstruction conference, and the areas that I think we need to strive to move forward a little faster," she explained.

Ms. Bridgewater said this includes easing Liberia's debt, estimated at about $3 billion, and how to spend an initial $35 million the U.S. government is giving Liberia to help reform its military.

"What we hope your new military will be, will be a military that is one of merit, one where we have officers of men and women who are committed to serving the people of Liberia, to protecting them, to protecting your borders," she said. Liberia's military disintegrated under the rule of former President Charles Taylor, who set up militias to fight rebel factions, during a war which ended last August with his departure into exile in Nigeria. The United Nations is now ensuring security and preparing for disarmament of former fighters in Liberia with a force of up to 12,000 peacekeepers. It is also leading humanitarian efforts to help the more than one million people, or about a third of the population, who were displaced by civil war. In recent weeks, thousands of Liberian refugees have returned home from camps in Sierra Leone. But many people, whose houses have been destroyed in the war, are joining thousands of other displaced Liberians in camps on the outskirts of Monrovia, adding to humanitarian needs.

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