21 June 2012

Liberia: Ambassador Michael R. Arietti, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires, Holds Talks With President Sirleaf

The newly assigned Chargé d'Affaires of the United States Embassy near Monrovia, Ambassador Michael R. Arietti, paid a courtesy call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Wednesday, June 20. Ambassador Arietti assumed a temporary assignment as Chargé d'Affaires, a.i. in Monrovia this month.

During the meeting at President Sirleaf's Foreign Ministry office, Ambassador Arietti informed her that his assignment in Liberia is temporary, as a new U.S. Ambassador would come by October, following confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Ambassador Arietti has worked in Africa over time; he recalled for President Sirleaf that he was in Accra, Ghana, in 2003 during the Liberia peace talks, and expressed his amazement about how the country has turned around under her leadership.

The Chargé d'Affaires stressed the need to tackle the power and energy sector, adding, "Power is critical and can create the enabling environment for private sector development which creates jobs."

He assured President Sirleaf that America-Liberia relations will be further strengthened during his short stay, and promised continued U.S. support to the country's rebuilding process, particularly the restoration of the hydro and support to the security sector. He also informed the Liberian leader that over US$100,000 will be disbursed to grassroots organizations under the Ambassador's Self-Help Project.

He sought the President's thoughts on the arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze, adding that he was ready to help Liberia achieve what it needs on such matters.

President Sirleaf briefed the Chargé on the state of affairs, including progress and challenges during her first term, as well as plans for the next six years and beyond. She informed Ambassador Arietti that a Comprehensive Development Plan - An Agenda for Transformation - is being formulated to guide government's actions in the rebuilding process. "Consistent with the plan, Liberia will be a middle-income country by 2030," President Sirleaf said.

The Liberian leader told the U.S. diplomat that addressing the huge unemployment problem amongst youths and young people is a pressing priority of government. She stressed the need to attract direct foreign investment to create jobs, investment in technical and vocational education, and expansion in agricultural production as measures aimed at solving the youth vulnerability problem. "Addressing the problem of young people promotes peace and consolidates the reconciliation process," President Sirleaf reiterated.

Ambassador Arietti had a 35-year career with the U.S. State Department, including serving as Ambassador to Rwanda from 2005 until his retirement in 2008. He held many positions in the Department of State, including Director of West African Affairs from 2003-2005. During this period, he was directly involved in international efforts to end the civil conflict in Liberia, negotiate the peace agreement, and plan for the post-conflict international presence in Liberia.

Ambassador Arietti previously served as Deputy Permanent Representative at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, and before that, as Deputy Chief of Mission in Lusaka, Zambia. He also served at U.S. Embassies in Sweden, Australia and Iran. Within the Department of State, he held the following positions: as Director of the Office of UN Peacekeeping Operations; Director of the Human Rights Office; and in other positions responsible for arms control negotiations and Middle Eastern issues. Prior to joining the State Department, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in India.

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