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Liberia's woman presidential contender promises help to war victims

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MONROVIA, Oct 27 (AFP) - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a contender in a presidential election run-off in Liberia, promised Thursday to help victims of the west African country's civil wars and to keep UN peacekeepers for five more years.

Harvard-educated banker and economist Sirleaf was standing in the November 8 poll against star soccer player George Weah who polled 28.3 percent to her 19.8 points in the October 11 first round.

"My government will cater to the war affected people, mainly the youth," she said in a reference to more than a decade of civil war that ravaged the country.

Knowing that Liberians are particularly concerned about security after the departure of United Nations peacekeeping forces from the country, Sirleaf promised to keep UNMIL (United Nations Missions In Liberia) for five more years.

"I will ask the United Nations and the American government to train our army. But UNMIL will still have to be here to protect us for five more years," she said.

A run-off to elect Liberia's first post-war president was required because neither candidate polled more than 50 percent in the first round.

Sirleaf's renewed campaign launch ceremony took place at the headquarters of here Unity Party here, with hundreds of devotees in attendance.

"Today begins another journey towards the presidency," the veteran politician and economist said.

"This is the final battle for all of us, so you have to again stand by me as you did for the first round."

On Wednesday, UN special envoy Alan Doss reiterated warnings of a "robust response" to any electoral violence, also urging Liberians to maintain the "exemplary political maturity" they showed in the run-up to the October 11 polls.

Weah, a high school dropout with no political experience, has the numbers on his side to win in a landslide, racking up endorsements from eight of his 20 defeated rivals for the presidency in the last several days.

"But relying only on the numbers for this round is not prudent, because the voters will not necessarily follow what their standard-bearer says," noted Noumou Diakite, representative for the African Union to Liberia.

Weah has moderated his tone in stark contrast to the bluster he showed about a landslide victory before the October 11 vote where he garnered only 28. 3 percent of votes cast.



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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