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US lifts Liberia sanctions citing democratic progress

The US has removed sanctions against the West African nation of Liberia, stressing the country's peaceful progress following years of civil war. The economic sanctions have been in place for more than a decade.

US President Barack Obama on Thursday ended sanctions against the West African nation of Liberia originally put in place by former President George W. Bush's 2004 executive order.

"The United States congratulates the people of Liberia for their determination, ingenuity and commitment to peace and democracy that has made this possible," said Ned Price, the White House's National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson, in a statement.

The 2004 executive order activating sanctions was a response to former Liberian President Charles Taylor's actions, deemed a national security threat to the US and its interests.

The NSC spokesperson added that the move was a response to positive developments in the country since Taylor stepped down.

"Liberia has worked to overcome not only the scars of war, but also the challenge of responding to an unprecedented outbreak of Ebola," Price added.

Obama also sent a letter to Congressional leaders, saying that Taylor's absence in Liberia has "diminished the ability" of his cohort to "undermine Liberia's progress," adding that the sanctions were no longer necessary.

Watch video 12:06

Liberia: Between poverty and progress? | DW

'Most heinous crimes'

In 2006, former Liberian President Taylor was arrested and charged at the Hague for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, and supporting rebels in Sierra Leone.

Taylor was also known for his instrumental role in the Liberian civil war that lasted from 1989 to 2003, and left nearly a quarter of a million people dead.

Judges of a special UN court in the Hague sentenced the former president to 50 years of prison, describing his actions as "some of the most heinous crimes in human history."

Taylor is currently serving his sentence in a maximum-security prison in the UK.

Since 2006, the West African nation has been led by Nobel Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has been praised internationally for her work in Liberia, including her role in combating the Ebola epidemic.

ls/ (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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