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Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 18:49 UK

Sirleaf 'surprised' at ban call

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at the AU summit in Libya, 02/07
The president was at an African Union summit when the report was released

Liberia's truth commission has called for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to be barred from office - a decision her spokesman says is "surprising".

The commission recommended a 30-year ban for Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf and dozens of other senior politicians.

She has admitted that she had backed former warlord Charles Taylor's rebellion 20 years ago.

The recommendations could become law if parliament, in which the opposition has a majority, decides to adopt them.

The BBC's world affairs correspondent Mark Doyle says the report leaves the president - Africa's first elected female leader - in serious political difficulties.

'Fooled' by Taylor

The president was at the African Union summit in Libya when the report was released last week.

Her spokesman, Cyrus Badio, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme she was still reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report and would respond fully later.

"She will not be able to make an informed opinion until she can digest it, she can conceptualise it to see what the issues are," he said.

"Of course it will come as a surprise to her but let's reserve judgement until she has read through the report."

The commission was established four years ago with a mandate to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation" by investigating more than 20 years of civil conflict in the country.

In February the president appeared before the commission and admitted that she had believed Mr Taylor's rebellion against military ruler Samuel Doe in the late 1980s was necessary.

The killing of Mr Doe in 1990 sparked more than a decade of violence between warring factions in which about 250,000 people were killed and the country left in ruins.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf apologised to the commission for supporting Mr Taylor - who later became president himself, before fleeing the country.

She said she had been "fooled" into supporting him, adding: "I feel it in my conscience. I feel it every day."

Mr Taylor was eventually arrested on an international warrant and is currently on trial for war crimes in The Hague.



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