The NEWS (Monrovia)

Liberia: 'I Feel Safer in Liberia Than Anywhere,' Bush Tells Liberians

Monrovia — When the U. S. State Department declared a little over two years ago that Liberia was a no-go zone for American citizens, there were mixed feelings across Liberia especially Monrovia. However, little did Liberians know that the very United States would have said otherwise in times to come.

President George W. Bush leading high power U.S. delegation told Liberians at the Barclay Training Center Thursday that he feels safer and at home in Liberia than anywhere.

Mr. Bush, wearing a blue coat suit, white shirt and maroon neck tie while beaming with smiles said: "I feel at home and there is no place I feel more welcome than a place where freedom reigns."

He recalled that freed black slaves who were denied freedom in the United States founded Liberia as the first black independent African state.

Mr. Bush, accompanied by his wife Laura, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior officials of his delegation, noted that although civil war took the lives of hundreds and thousands of the citizens, but Liberians did not give up to reclaim their country when they went to the poll to elect the first female African leader, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

He stated that it is easier to tear a country apart than to rebuild, assuring that the United States will stand by Liberia in its rebuilding process.

President Bush and delegation while in Liberia on a one-day official visit also indicated that it was irresponsible for people to sit by their babies and see them die of malaria adding, "We are working to save the children of Liberia."

Additionally, the U.S. President disclosed that the American people will provide one million textbooks for 10,000 children to benefit beginning next academic year.

"I am pleased to visit your land; I want to thank Liberians for the courage and steadfastness; continue the determination.

"There are no doubts in my mind that Liberia will forge ahead and become a beacon of freedom in Africa," Bush concluded at the BTC.

Earlier President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf welcomed President Bush and delegation to Liberia, stating that the visit was significant for US-Liberia relations.

She recalled the visit of Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1943 when Liberia was at a crossroad and Jimmy Carter in 1978 when the country was at pre-war days.

The Liberian Leader told President Bush that after the visit of President Carter, Liberia was plunged into chaos thereby politicizing the military.

"This visit comes at the time when Liberia is recovering from the experience of recent past. We therefore have an obligation to justify this confidence by improving the quality of life through poverty reduction," President Sirleaf said.

She acknowledged the key role the United States has played and continues to play by supporting the training of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

She commended the United States Government for the reopening of the American school and the expected return of Peace Corps something, she believes, has ensured confidence in Liberia.

"Liberia is opened to business for Americans and the world. I thank Mrs. Bush for her support to girls' education," the Liberian Chief Executive added.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia told the American delegation that Liberia was on its way to economic recovery, a recovery aided by the American people and stated: "we have full ownership of our agenda; we intend to make the private sector the engine of our economy."

Speaking amid applause, Johnson-Sirleaf stressed that Liberia will aim for aid rather than trade, investment and business partnership rather humanitarian handouts.

She further indicated that the country's reconciliation process was underway and that children are beginning to laugh again.

"Mr. President, you are safe here; you can enjoy the Liberian hospitality," she assured.

President Bush and entourage touched down at the James Spriggs Payne Airfield at exactly 9:50 a.m. local time in a helicopter marked Marine one.

From the Spriggs Payne Airfield, where they were met on arrival by President Johnson-Sirleaf and a host of government officials as well as the diplomatic corps, they proceeded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where bilateral discussions were held between the two leaders.

At the burnt Executive Mansion, President Bush, his wife Laura and Secretary of State Rice were decorated with Liberia's highest honors.

At the Barclay Training Center, President Bush inspected a guard of honor mounted by personnel of the newly American-trained Armed Forces of Liberia.

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