Washington, D.C., June 4, 2004 - C. Gyude Bryant, chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, told a Voice of America (VOA) audience today that the United Nations should lift sanctions on timber and diamonds because his country is on the mend.
"We made the case ... We are adopting various reforms ... We are a changed country," Bryant said at a VOA Newsmaker press conference.
Bryant also urged wealthier nations to make good on promises to help Liberia rebuild itself after a devastating 14-year civil war that ended last year.
Liberia, a West African nation of 3.3 million people, is Africa's oldest republic, founded by freed slaves. But the country was in turmoil for over a decade under the rule of ousted President Charles Taylor, who fled into exile.
In October 2003, Bryant, a businessman, was named head of the transitional government. A U.N. peacekeeping mission of nearly 15,000 people remains in Liberia, which is in the process of disarming. Elections are expected to be held in 2005.
Bryant said he met with members of the U.N Security Council on his visit to the United States to ask them to lift the sanctions that were imposed when Taylor was president. At the time, the U.N. hoped to deprive Liberia of revenues that were thought to be used to promote regional warfare.
Bryant stressed that the sanctions now amounted to an unfair burden on a country that is trying hard to return to stability. "We have turned around," he said. "We pay our bills."
Asked about Taylor, who now lives in Nigeria, Bryant noted that the former president is under indictment. Bryant said Taylor "is being dealt with ... I don't feel threatened."
The Liberian leader implored developed countries to support the rebuilding of Liberia. "Donors have been slow" to follow up with pledges made at a donor conference, Bryant said. (A U.N. report said some $70 million of an estimated $520 million pledged had been received.)
Noting the VOA venue, Bryant said, "I am no stranger to VOA."
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government. VOA broadcasts almost 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of 87 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages.
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