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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Liberia gears up for peace poll
Presidential candidates George Weah (l) and Roland Massaquoi (r)
Liberian hope the candidates can remain peaceful
Campaigning has started for Liberia's first general elections since the end of a 14-year civil war.

Small groups of activists carrying photographs of the rival candidates braved the wet weather in the capital.

Among the best-known candidates in the October poll are ex-footballer George Weah, rebel leader Sekou Conneh and economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Some 15,000 UN peacekeepers are in Liberia, tasked with ensuring stability in the volatile country.

Voters will be asked to choose a successor to transitional President Gyude Bryant, who took office in October 2003, succeeding Charles Taylor.

'Smooth sailing'

On Friday, the election commission threw out a challenge to Mr Weah's candidature, based on allegations that he had taken French citizenship while playing in France.

Mr Weah, 38, who is considered one of the favourites in the presidential race, welcomed the decision.

They told us that they were going to take us home to vote there - we will not vote here
J Sirleaf Masah
Displaced person
The election commission has published a list of 22 candidates cleared to run in the 11 October poll. Six of the original 28 applicants were rejected.

National Elections Commission Chairperson Frances Johnson-Morris denied that there were too many candidates.

"There are so many people who had wanted to participate in our past electoral processes and maybe they did not get the chance; this is a time that everyone has the opportunity," she said.

"We are going well, I think this process is sailing smoothly."

Mr Taylor - wanted by the UN-backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone - has been accused of trying to manipulate the election from the Nigerian town of Calabar, where he lives in exile.

One of his former ministers, Roland Massaquoi, is a candidate.

However, some of the 500,000 people displaced during the war have not yet been repatriated.

One group outside the capital, Monrovia, said they would refuse to vote unless they had been sent home.

"They told us that they were going to take us home to vote there; we will not vote here, if they bring their ballot boxes, we will simply watch them," said J Sirleaf Masah in the New Land Displaced People's Camp.

In concurrent legislative elections 206 candidates are fighting for 30 senate seats, and the 64 lower house seats are being contested by 503 hopefuls.


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