Sarkozy welcomes Liberian president

24th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 24, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy was turning his attention to Africa on Thursday by welcoming to the Elysee palace Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the continent's first elected woman president.

PARIS, May 24, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy was turning his attention to Africa on Thursday by welcoming to the Elysee palace Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the continent's first elected woman president.

He has also scheduled a meeting on Friday with Gabon's Omar Bongo, Africa's longest serving president and France's top ally in francophone Africa for the past 40 years.

Sarkozy, who took over from Jacques Chirac last week, has pledged to seek a new relationship with Africa that will put greater emphasis on controlling immigration.

The meeting with Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist who swept to power last year, "is very important because it is the president's first meeting with a leader of the African continent," said presidential spokesman David Martinon.

Sarkozy during the campaign pledged to build a new "adult, responsible and transparent" relationship with Africa and put an end to "paternalism and clientelism."

His comments were an implicit criticism of the ties that Chirac and his predecessors maintained with regimes of dubious democratic credentials such as that of Bongo, who has been in power since 1967.

"By welcoming her, the president of the republic wants to pay homage to a battered country whose population has been tortured and which we want to help," said the spokesman.

The Elysee praised Johnson Sirleaf as a leader who "was facing many challenges to rebuild her country which is coming out of a long period of crisis."

Liberia was torn by 14 years of war that claimed 270,000 lives and devastated the infrastructure of the west African nation, until warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor went into exile in 2003.

Sirleaf Johnson won election in January 2006 and moved quickly to stamp out corruption, rebuild the country and set up a South-African style truth and reconciliation commission to heal the wounds of war.

Sarkozy has said he plans to travel to Africa soon after taking office.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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