12 March Press Brief

Monday, 12th March 2007
Honorable members of the Press, I would like to welcome you once again to another Weekly Press Briefing from our office.

As you all know, the President is out of the country. She was in Accra, Ghana, early last week, attending the 50th Independence Anniversary of our sister country. She left Accra for Madrid, Spain where she participated in a women’s conference.

The President also met with Spanish Government officials on bilateral corporation between our Country and Spain. The President is at the moment in Japan. She arrived there yesterday. She has been meeting with Japanese government officials. Today the President met with the Prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. She asked the Japanese’s government and people to grant Liberia “Debt Relief” and help develop the country’s private sector. The President told the Japanese prime minister that the debt burden posses a huge impediment to this country’s progress. President Johnson Sirleaf expressed the Liberian people’s gratitude to Japan for its continued support through bilateral agencies.

 The President assured the Japanese government of Government’s corporation in furthering a strong partnership between the two countries. The Japanese prime minister was very much enthusiastic about the President‘s visit and has expressed concern over the Debt issue. He is challenging the Government to ensure security and stability in the country, which he said is an ingredient to Japanese investors.  

The Japanese prime minister said his government is prepared to resume full bilateral relations with Liberia. He said   modalities will be worked out between foreign Ministry officials of the two countries.

The Japanese prime minister is requesting Liberia’s co-operation as his country lobbies for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. Prime Minister Abe is also soliciting Liberia’s support as Japan aims to gain a non-permanent post on the Security Council.

He has also expressed concerned about the demilitarization of North Korea, and asked the Liberian Government to co-operation with the International Community to force North Korea to comply with the ongoing six-party talks involving the United States, Russia, China, the United Nations and South Korea. The Japanese Prime Minister has invited President Sirleaf to attend the 4th edition of the Tokyo International Conference for African development (TECAD) to be held later this year.

Earlier, President Sirleaf held discussions with Japan Finance minister, Koji Omi. Mr. Omi emphasized his government’s preparedness to support Liberia’s economic recovery efforts. The Japanese Finance Minister promised to work with multilateral institutions to cancel Liberia’s multilateral debt. On the issue to direct investment, Finance minister Omi pledged to contact the Japanese Trading company to hold discussions on investing in Liberia.

The Liberian Leader also visited Emperor Akilhito at the Imperial Palace and held talks with Mr. Atsushi Hatakenaka, Vice President of the Japan International Cooperative Agency (JICA) followed by a breakfast meeting with African Ambassadors accredited near Japan.

We want to also welcome news that the government of South Africa has given more than US$3-million dollars to the African Development Bank to help offset Liberia’s debt to the Bank.  We do not yet have all the details surrounding the South African contribution, but believe such a gesture, especially from an African Sister Country, represents a significant gesture which must be emulated. Liberia owns the ADB over US200-million dollars and any contribution toward relieving the country of that debt burden is highly welcomed. The increasing support the debt-waver campaign is receiving can be attributed to our President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose has been leading the international campaign for debt relieve. It also represents a clear manifestation of the sound and transparent policies and programs this government has put in place toward national development and reconstruction.
Those are the few issues we have for you, and would be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION-01: I am Jeremiah Sarnor from Clar-TV, King’s- FM. You said during your deliberation that the Japanese Government wants to waive Liberia’s debt.
How much Liberia owe Japan?

Answer: We don’t have the specifics, but like most countries Liberia owes, that may be a significant amount. We don’t have the exact figure. But as soon as they are available we will inform the Press.
QUESTION-02: I am D.K. Sengbeh from the “Informer” Newspaper. According to you the President met the Japanese leaser; He asked for Liberia’s support for Japan on the Security Council. What did President Sirleaf say?

Answer: Well, that is a request for which the President has not yet made a decision. The President will return and discuss Japan’s request with her cabinet. Whatever decision that is made thereafter, will take into account the country’s national interest.