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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 16:02 GMT
Taylor 'not priority' for Liberia
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at the ceremony
President Johnson-Sirleaf has said her priorities are creating jobs and fighting corruption
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf says prosecuting her predecessor Charles Taylor is "secondary" to her agenda.

Her comments came after more than 300 Liberian and international rights bodies wrote to her, calling for Mr Taylor to be tried in Sierra Leone.

Mr Taylor is accused of backing the notorious RUF rebels in Sierra Leone's 1990s civil war.

Mr Taylor is in exile in Nigeria after leaving power in 2003.

Addressing her first news conference since taking office on 16 January, President Johnson-Sirleaf said her post-war government does not want "the Mr Taylor issue to be the issue that constraints us or the issue that causes us not to be able to do what we have to do here for the Liberian people.

"So we want to see it as a secondary issue, even though it may be of utmost concern to the international community," she said.

'Rule of law'

On Thursday, the Campaign Against Impunity - a coalition of about 300 African and international civil society groups - said in an open letter to Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf that the new president should take prompt action to ensure that Mr Taylor faces trial in Sierra Leone.

Charles Taylor

"President Johnson-Sirleaf said her presidency will stand for accountability and the rule of law," said Ezekial Pajibo, executive director of Liberia's Centre for Democratic Empowerment, in a statement circulated by US-based Human Rights Watch.

"Now she has a major opportunity to do just that. We hope she will seize this chance by requesting Nigeria to surrender Charles Taylor to the [UN-backed] Special Court for Sierra Leone."

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf said she had discussed Mr Taylor with Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo but declined to reveal any details of their conversation.

Mr Obasanjo has rejected previous calls to send Mr Taylor to Sierra Leone but has said he would be willing to hand Mr Taylor over to an elected Liberian government.

Mr Taylor stood down as rebels threatened to seize the capital, Monrovia. His departure into exile was part of a deal backed by African and Western powers, which ultimately led to last year's elections, won by Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf.


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