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Clinton Says US Supports Sirleaf

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has given a big boost of support to embattled Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf whose Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended that she be barred from holding further public office.

Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission says President Sirleaf should be barred from future political office because of her support in the early 1990s for then-rebel-leader Charles Taylor.

The commission's recommendations do not have the force of law, but legislators who support the move against the president are preparing to introduce those recommendations in the national assembly.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with President Sirleaf, Secretary Clinton was asked if her visit here is meant as a show of support for Africa's first elected female president.

"Of course it's a sign of support," she said. "We have looked at the entire record that President Sirleaf brings to office, her performance in office, the accomplishments of the government she leads, and we are supportive and will continue to be because we think Liberia is on the right path, as difficult as the path might be."

Secretary Clinton says the Obama administration will continue to back Liberian efforts to reduce corruption and improve the electoral process ahead of the next national elections in 2011.

President Sirleaf says Liberians are grateful for the partnership and deep friendship between the countries and appreciate Secretary Clinton's support.

"We look forward to continuing to carry out our part of the bargain - to move Liberia forward, open society, democracy, accountability, transparency, developing our country through the proper use of our natural resources," said Ms. Sirleaf. "And we also look forward to her support, and the United States support of our endeavor."

President Sirleaf's early support for then-rebel-leader Taylor was not unusual. Most civil society groups and opponents of then-President Samuel Doe backed the Taylor rebellion at its start and, like President Sirleaf, distanced themselves from his National Patriotic Front when civilian atrocities mounted.

Both women were asked repeatedly about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations. Neither responded directly. Secretary Clinton says she believes the Liberian leader should be judged on what she has accomplished.

"I look at what President Sirleaf has done in the past three years, and I see a very accomplished leader dedicated to the betterment of the Liberian people, who has been consistent in her leadership on behalf of solving the problems that Liberia faces so that Liberians can have a peaceful future with prosperity and opportunity," said Clinton.

This is the sixth stop on an Africa trip that has already taken Secretary Clinton to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria. She ends this trip Friday in Cape Verde.