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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Crowds welcome Clinton in Liberia

US Secretary State Hillary Clinton has commended Liberia for its post-conflict progress on the latest stage of her seven-nation African tour.

Despite rain, crowds lined the streets to welcome Mrs Clinton to Monrovia, where she held talks with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

She said she was impressed how the economy was being rebuilt since the end of years of conflict in 2003.

"Liberia is on the right track, as difficult as the path might be."

Around 250,000 people were killed in Liberia's civil war and thousands of refugees continue to shelter in neighbouring countries.

The government is inclusive especially for women which I take great pleasure in noting
Hillary Clinton

The BBC's West Africa correspondent, John James, says Liberians regard the US as an old friend.

Everything in Liberia, which was founded by free slaves from America more than 150 years ago, draws its inspiration from the US "motherland" - including the flag, the government and local architecture, he says.

But Liberian infrastructure remains in a desperate state, with electricity and water being rare commodities.

Cheque book out?

"It is impressive the way that Liberia has decreased its debt, which was run up of course during years of conflict, and has had a high rate of GDP growth over the last years," Mrs Clinton said during a press conference with Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf.

South Africa
Democratic Republic of Congo
Cape Verde

"And the government is inclusive especially for women which I take great pleasure in noting," she added.

Our correspondent says that if Liberians will be disappointed if they imagine Mrs Clinton has come with an open cheque book.

Mrs Clinton has repeatedly called on the countries she has visited on this tour to end corruption and encourage Africans to seize the opportunities available.

She was expected to deliver the same message to the Liberian parliament.

At her previous stop in Nigeria, she urged officials to embrace broad political reform and ease tensions that have led to sectarian violence and disrupted energy production in the Niger Delta.

The secretary of state is due to leave Liberia late on Thursday for Cape Verde, from where she will fly home to Washington on Friday.

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