Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has recalled with immediate effect her ambassador to the United States, Milton Nathaniel Barnes.
The president gave no reason for the recall, but there have been speculations that Ambassador Barnes, who was a presidential candidate in the 2005 election, was planning on running again for president in the 2011 election.
There have also been allegations that the ambassador recently made a presentation to friends in the United States outlining his vision for Liberia and criticizing the Sirleaf government.
Ambassador Barnes said that as a political appointee, he serves at the will and pleasure of the president.
“I received an official letter from President Sirleaf this morning (Monday) recalling me to Monrovia for consultation and a possible reassignment. Considering that my appointment I serve at the will and pleasure of the president, I have received the letter with gratitude and appreciation,” he said.
Barnes denied allegations that he recently made a presentation to friends in the United States outlining his vision for Liberia as a potential presidential candidate in the 2011 elections.
“It’s absolutely not true. I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. As you know with many Liberians in any social gathering politics are discussed. There were political discussions, but I did not in any way shape or form declare or express any ambition or political ambition,” Barnes said.
He also denied he criticized the government he represents at the same gathering.
“Why would I criticize the government that I’m part of? I certainly did not. My function here is to serve in the interest of Liberia, and I’ve done so with great dignity and pride and honor, and I challenge anyone to come up and show an instance where I was critical of my government,” Barnes said.
Barnes is a former finance minister in the government of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
He ran as a presidential candidate in the 2005 election under the banner of the Liberia Destiny Party.
He was appointed Liberia’s ambassador to the United Nations in 2006 before taking up the job in Washington.
Barnes said he served his country to the best of his ability despite the fact that he is not a member of President Sirleaf’s ruling Unity Party.
“In spite of the fact that I am of an opposition party, I have publically acknowledged and I expressed appreciation to President Sirleaf for giving me this opportunity, and I have served to the best of my ability in the interest of Liberia following her agenda. So there was no time in my career in New York or in here in Washington where I was critical of Mrs. Sirleaf or the government,” Barnes said.
He did not rule out running for president in 2011.
“Look, I am part of a political party – the Liberia Destiny Party. We participated in the election in 2005. We are a party that expects to participate in the political dispensation in Liberia. But I have not made the personal decision to pursue this ambition. And when we do so at the appropriate time, we will make known through our party,” Barnes said.
Article by James Butty, VOA News