Liberia likely to revise logging contracts over graft: president

Reuters News

11/8/2012 10:40:18 AM - Reuters News

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Contracts to exploit Liberia's natural resources are likely to be revised or renegotiated once a probe into mismanaged agreements with logging firms is completed, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said on Thursday.

Advocacy group Global Witness said in a September report that more than a quarter of Liberia's land had been given to timber companies since 2010, often using secretive and illegal methods.

Corruption is one of Liberia's main development roadblocks, with the country ranking near the bottom of U.N. development indicators nearly a decade after the end of a 14-year civil war.

"It's very likely that there could be changes in those (logging) agreements," Nobel laureate Johnson-Sirleaf told reporters during a visit to the European Commission in Brussels.

"As you know we have an investigation that is ongoing into certain compromises that have been made of our laws and procedures and policies."

She said the probe was being carried out by an independent body and that "corrective measures" would be taken.

EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the European Union would continue to support Liberia's reform efforts to tackle illegal logging.

In 2011, the EU and Liberia signed an agreement designed to end illegal timber exports to Europe. The 27-country bloc partly funds an aid program worth 17 million euros ($21.7 million) to try to ensure legal timber production.

(Reporting By Ethan Bilby; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Andrew Osborn)