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Obama Lifts US Sanctions on Liberia


FILE - President Barack Obama and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf participate in discussions at the White House in Washington about progress in West Africa against Ebola, April 15, 2015.

President Barack Obama lifted U.S. sanctions on Liberia Thursday.

White House spokesman Ned Price cited what he calls Liberia's "tremendous progress" since emerging from civil war in 2003, including its commitment to democracy and development of political and economic institutions.

"Liberia has worked to overcome not only the scars of war but also the challenge of responding to an unprecedented outbreak of Ebola at a time when Liberians were in the middle of the vital work of consolidating democracy, building their economy, investing in infrastructure and strengthening their security services, Price said.

But the White House says much remains to be done in Liberia, including transferring security responsibilities from a U.N. mission to Liberian forces next year, and a presidential election in 2017.

"Liberia and its people are up to these challenges," said Price.

Former president George W. Bush imposed sanctions on Liberia in 2004, saying a peace deal and cease-fire ending the civil war was not being fully implemented. Bush also said Liberia was involved in arms trafficking and illegally lumber sales that were financing wars throughout West Africa.

The sanctions targeted former top Liberian government officials and the family and close allies of former president Charles Taylor.

Taylor set off Liberia's civil war in 1989, leading an uprising that toppled then-President Samuel Doe. Taylor was elected president in 1997, leading to a second civil war that ended when Taylor fled the country.

He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 2012 for instigating war and atrocities in neighboring Sierra Leone.