The losing candidate in last month's second round presidential vote in Liberia, George Weah, says he is dropping his legal challenge to the victory of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Mr. Weah says he is do so to "allow peace in his war-shattered nation."

In a prepared statement Wednesday, Mr. Weah said his party, the Congress for Democratic Change, will not exercise its option of contesting the ballot with Liberia's Supreme Court.

The former world footballer of the year said the decision was based on a desire to see Liberians achieve peace and have the opportunity for recovery and redemption.

Claims from his party that the November 8 vote was deeply flawed were rejected by the national election commission, but Mr. Weah could still have gone to the Supreme Court.

His supporters, many of them former combatants, have taken to the streets in a series of rampages, saying the young, inexperienced politician was cheated of his rightful victory. International election monitors did not see any proof of large scale tampering.

Mr. Weah was also under mounting pressure from outside Liberia to drop his challenge.

A former spokesman from one of the rebel groups that toppled former President Charles Taylor in 2003, Bodioh Siapoe, welcomed Mr. Weah's decision.

"I think that will be good for the sake of peace because there's a lot of commotion in the country that could potentially lead to another bloodbath. That he says, he concedes defeat, then that's the right way to go. I think that's a positive sign for all Liberia," he said.

Mr. Weah did not explicitly concede defeat, but if there is no more legal challenge, Mrs. Sirleaf, a former government minister and grandmother, who has already been certified the winner, is now cleared to become Africa's first elected female head of state. Her inauguration is scheduled for January 16.