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U.S. First Lady Laura Bush Attends Liberian Inauguration

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been sworn in as Liberia's new president, making her Africa's first female elected head of state. The new president took the oath of office in Monrovia today in a ceremony attended by thousands of civilians and scores of dignitaries. Among the international dignitaries in attendance was US First Lady Laura Bush. Ms. Bush told Voice of America reporter Scott Stearns that Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s inauguration marks an important milestone in Liberia’s history. She says the event has added significance as it takes place on a day Americans remember the legacies of US civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mrs. Bush says as Liberia embarks on a new era of reconstruction and development, international assistance will prove crucial. She says the United States stands ready to assist the new government rebuild the country’s infrastructure, revive power lines and open schools around the country. Mrs. Bush expresses hope that schools and education remain top priorities for President Johnson Sirleaf.

The US First Lady says rebuilding Liberia’s economy will be another top priority for the newly inaugurated president. She says she expects Ms. Johnson Sirleaf to collaborate with the international community in finding ways of putting large numbers of unemployed youth back to work. Mrs. Bush underscores the special relationship between the United States and Liberia – a country founded by freed slaves from the United States. Because of that, she says, Americans feel a special obligation to help Liberia as it starts rebuilding itself following years of conflict.