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German Chancellor Wraps Up Africa Tour in Liberia

During German Chancellor Angela Merkel's last stop on her first sub-Saharan Africa tour, she met with Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to discuss how to bring economic prosperity to the nation still reeling from recent war. For many the visit raised hopes of increased aid and new jobs. Kari Barber has more from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

After meeting with President Sirleaf, Chancellor Merkel said the two discussed what Liberia would need to rise out of poverty. Mrs. Merkel identified a few key areas where the country would need support - including education, health care and economic development.

She said Germany is looking into how it can help.

"It is in my interest and our interest to see that this country that has been torn apart by war and has been devastated by internal strife is now able to repair its infrastructure to achieve the potential and creativity of its people," said Angela Merkel.

Liberian student Deddeh Sannah says she hopes close relations between Mrs. Merkel and Mrs. Sirleaf will mean reviving industries that were destroyed in the war.

A joint German-Liberian group operated an iron-ore deposit in the Bong district in the decades before the civil war, but abandoned the facilities when rebel troops advanced on the area.

"When I heard that the German chancellor was coming I was really happy because you know that in the years past Germany was running a project here at Bong Mines and since the war the place has broken down," said Deddeh Sannah. "We know the level of destruction that went on there. So I hope the visit here will mean well for us and they will one day go back and pick up from where they stopped."

Vincent Chounse of Monrovia says he hopes the visit means more than just talk, but will result in jobs and assistance to reconstruct the city that still lacks basic services.

"We hope the visit is a positive visit, not to come and make big, big promises and not fulfill their promises," said Vincent Chounse. "We would feel so hurt and disappointed."

Chancellor Merkel sparked controversy during the tour when she said Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe should not be banned from an African Union-European Union summit later this year - putting her at odds with other European leaders who have said they will boycott if Mr. Mugabe attends.

President Mugabe is widely criticized for political repression and for driving Zimbabwe's economy to ruin. African Union officials have backed Mrs. Merkel's position saying they too want to see all countries invited to the conference.

Mrs. Merkel's five-day Africa visit also included stops in Ethiopia and South Africa where she discussed AIDS, human rights, and global warming.