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Liberia's Interim Leader to Present 'Results-Focused Plan' at Donors Conference - 2004-02-06

Liberia's top official is in New York to ask the international community for help in rebuilding the war-torn country. Gyude Bryant, Liberia's interim leader says what the country needs most right now is basic necessities.

Mr. Bryant is presenting what he calls a "results-focused plan" to win over donors.

The Liberian leader is in New York attending an international donor conference hosted by the United Nations. The aim is to raise nearly $500 million to help rebuild Liberia over the next two years.

Mr. Bryant was chosen Liberia's interim leader last year after former President Charles Taylor was forced into exile.

Speaking at the private Council on Foreign Relations Thursday, Mr. Bryant said that the money raised would be used to meet the most basic needs of Liberia's citizens.

"To sustain the peace, we must be able to deliver to people what is rightly theirs," he said. "This program we're presenting to the United Nations is to help us reconstruct our infrastructure, give people clean water, give people some electricity in the city, give people medical facilities, health care facilities."

Mr. Bryant added that rehabilitating the education system is also a top priority for the transitional government. After 15 years of civil war, Liberia has an estimated 21,000 child soldiers, who now need to be integrated back into civil society.

Anti-government rebels agreed to a power-sharing deal last year, paving the way for a transitional government and relative stability for the country. The peace agreement called for a U.N. peacekeeping force in Liberia, and for both pro and anti-government forces to disarm.

He expressed confidence in country's future stability.

"We are now building a consensus with the warring parties and the unarmed civilians that were left there. Never again. The time for settling scores with guns are over," he said.

The disarmament process temporarily halted in December, but Mr. Bryant says he expects it to resume in March when the United Nations is satisfied that it has enough troops on the ground. There are currently 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Liberia. That number is expected to rise to 15,000 in an effort to help bolster security and stability in the West African nation.