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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: And I'm Robert Siegel. Liberia's president was hoping for an outright first round victory after last week's election, but Africa's first democratically elected female leader is facing a runoff next month. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She's a Harvard graduate. And she says she is confident Liberians will vote for her. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton sat down to chat with President Johnson Sirleaf about her record after six years in power.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Dressed in an African cotton print and linen ensemble in pale and navy blues, topped off with her signature turban head wrap, 72 year-old President Johnson Sirleaf is gracious, but looks tired after the election campaign and the hotly contested first round vote last Tuesday. But that air of weariness vanishes as she defends her record and her promise to rebuild Liberia. She was elected two years after the end of the civil war in 2003.

PRESIDENT ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF: First of all, I think you have to look at Liberia's progress in the context of where we were when we started in 2006. This was a broken country, collapsed economy. There was no investment. There was capital flight. Today, we've mobilized 16 billion in direct foreign investment. Now, it takes time for that investment to translate into jobs, into infrastructure improvement. We have now laid the foundation.

QUIST-ARCTON: One of Johnson Sirleaf's campaign pledges back in 2005 was that corruption would be public enemy number one in Liberia. Her critics and political opponents say instead of zero tolerance, her administration has allowed graft to prosper. Senior government officials have been fired for corruption, but how many have been prosecuted and imprisoned?

SIRLEAF: We have done everything to make sure that our fight for corruption is not just going to be one sentimental trial here or there, but that we're going to have prevention, which is much better way for a permanent cure. I grant you that prosecutions are to come, and they will come. We're coming back to them right after elections.

QUIST-ARCTON: And here, a word of warning to Liberia's political opposition, which over the weekend alleged a vote count fraud in the president's favor after the first round.

SIRLEAF: What we don't want is for opposition people to try to preempt the process by all these false accusations and claims. Yes, we wanted to win, and we had made projections to win. Now that they have found out that, in fact, it was so free and fair that a runoff is now in a making, now they've accepted the results. So you see, they ought to wait, be a part of the process, be peaceful, eschew violence and the best person will win.

QUIST-ARCTON: So does Johnson Sirleaf expect to win in what observers predict will be a close race? And what if she loses the runoff?

SIRLEAF: I've been in close fights all my life, and I've won every one of them, and this one will be the same. We have a record before the Liberian people, and I am just convinced that the people will stand by us.

QUIST-ARCTON: President Johnson Sirleaf ready, she says, to take on her presidential challenger, Winston Tubman, another Harvard graduate, in Liberia's runoff scheduled November 8. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Monrovia.

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