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Charles Taylor And Nigerian Debt Relief

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. I agree with the senior Senator from Vermont about the importance of upholding the rule of law in Africa and around the world. I would also like to add my support for the efforts of the Special Court for Sierra Leone to bring to justice some of the worst war criminals of the 20th century. While the Special Court has not been perfect, there is no question that the Court is doing vitally important work of promoting peace and reconciliation, increasing accountability, and strengthening the rule of law throughout West Africa. I also want to discuss a related issue--the case of Charles Taylor. I know the Senator from Vermont has been working for years on this issue.

I will simply say that Charles Taylor is an indicted war criminal, and he needs to be transferred to the Special Court to stand trial as soon as possible. The Government of Nigeria has allowed Charles Taylor to live in exile, within its borders, with the support of the international community, including the United States, since August 2003. While we owe Nigeria a debt of gratitude for helping prevent further bloodshed in Liberia, it is time for Mr. Taylor to be transferred to the Special Court.

No nation should be permitted to willfully ignore an indictment issued by this tribunal. Moreover, there are credible reports that Mr. Taylor has broken the terms of his exile, is a threat to the Liberian peace process, and continues to meddle in the internal affairs of Liberia--just a few months before the Liberian elections.

I wonder if the Senator from Vermont shares my views?


Mr. OBAMA. I thank the Senator from Vermont, the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, because he makes a crucial point. Debt relief from the United States is not automatic. In the past, debt relief has come with conditions, including making progress in fighting corruption and on economic reform, to ensure that this relief achieves the maximum results.

For Nigeria, this means turning over Charles Taylor--an indicted war criminal who has the blood of thousands on his hands and threatens, once again, to destabilize the region--to the Special Court. Like the Senator from Vermont, I strongly believe that Nigeria is a worthy candidate for debt relief and a key U.S. partner in West Africa. When Charles Taylor is turned over, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be a forceful advocate for debt relief for Nigeria. I would also like to praise the Government of Nigeria for its leadership on other issues, especially their efforts to lead the African Union force in Darfur. I want nothing more than to see the Taylor issue successfully resolved so we can focus our attention on other important issues with the Nigerians.

I would also reiterate what the Senator said about the waiver authority contained in section 585. The President can waive these restrictions, including those pertaining to Nigerian debt relief, by formulating a plan to get Mr. Taylor to the Court.


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