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Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Sworn in as Liberia's New President


Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in Monday as Liberia's president, becoming Africa's first elected female head of state. It was a ceremony that was widely noted including in the United States.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took the oath of office in a ceremony in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. Thousands of Liberians and dozens of foreign dignitaries were in attendance to show their support as Mrs. Sirleaf pledged to defend, uphold and support the constitution.

U.S. first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led the U.S delegation. Other dignitaries included many African heads of state.

In her Inaugural address Monday the 67-year-old President Sirleaf promised to fight rampant corruption and rebuild the country after 14 years of civil war that killed a quarter of a million people and left Liberia's economy in ruins. Mrs. Sirleaf paid tribute to the people of Liberia who turned out in large numbers to vote in last November's election.

Mrs. Sirleaf said, "This ritual (of voting) is symbolic and politically significant. It reflects the enduring character of the democratic tradition of the peaceful and orderly transfer of political power and authority. It also confirms the culmination of a commitment to our nation's selective search for a purposeful and responsive national leadership."

Mrs. Sirleaf was elected to office in November, beating former football star George Weah in a runoff election.

She ran for office two years after former rebel leader President Charles Taylor bowed to international pressure, left the country, and went into exile in Nigeria. Before being elected President Mrs. Sirleaf served as finance minister twice. She also held key jobs at the United Nations and the World Bank.

Mrs. Sirleaf has said that one of her main priorities as president will be fighting poverty. In the last year the United States and other countries have spent more than a billion dollars to help stabilize the country. The inauguration of Mrs. Sirleaf as Africa's first elected woman head of state came on the same day that millions in the United States honored the legacy of the famed black civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Liberia has had close ties with the United States for decades because the African nation was founded by freed American slaves in 1847.