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Liberian Presidential Candidates to Be Confirmed

Campaigning for Liberia's presidential elections is set to begin Monday, after the National Electoral Commission resolves eligibility questions about some of the candidates. The commission is to publish a final list of candidates for the October election on Saturday.

Over 20 presidential candidates have been nominated, but questions concerning nationality have held up confirmation of several, including popular football star George Weah, who took French citizenship while playing for a French team.

An analyst from the International Crisis Group, Mike McGovern, said under Liberian law, only a Liberian citizen can run for president. He said the National Electoral Commission has already approved about a dozen candidates.

"Liberian law appears to be fairly clear on this point. If you have taken other nationality, you have to lose your Liberian nationality. And if you want to renounce the second nationality and become Liberian, again you have to apply for naturalizations," he said.

Opponents of Mr. Weah, who is considered a leading contender in the election, say he should be excluded from the race because he took French citizenship. But Mr. McGovern says almost all the candidates lived outside Liberia during the war, and the question the election commission has to consider is whether the old laws should be applied as the country tries to recover. "In a country that experienced 14 years of vicious war, is it reasonable to apply the old laws, which were made before the war happened and essentially denied the legitimacy of somebody living outside the country during that period," he said.

The spokesman for the United Nations Mission in Liberia, Paul Risley, says lists of candidates will be published in Liberian papers Monday. On Saturday, the United Nations will hold a special orientation session about the rights and responsibilities of candidates.

The Liberian government banned public demonstrations Monday, and Mr. Risley said there will be increased security measures during the run-up to elections. "We anticipate that the Liberian National Police will be requested to issue permits for any public demonstrations and any campaigning that takes place in the streets, or in areas of the city. We are anticipating that there may be some problems," he said.

Mr. Risley said there have been several violent incidents linked to the election, which the United Nations is currently investigating, including an attempted arson attack on the car of one of the members of the electoral commission.

Liberia's civil war killed around 200,000 people, and left Liberia in economic ruin. A transitional government took over the country in 2003, and was charged with steering the country toward democratic elections.