Liberian President sacks ministers in run-up to poll

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf dismissed her cabinet on Wednesday in a move that will provide her with a "fresh slate" for the next phase of her administration, her office said in a press release.

No other reason was given for the move, but it comes in the midst of a crackdown on corruption in the West African state that has led to investigations of some public officials a year ahead of presidential elections.

"President Johnson-Sirleaf told the ministers that the reason for demanding their mass administrative leave is that this administration is entering a critical stretch and this would afford her the opportunity to start with a fresh slate going forward," according to the release.

"The President further announced that a cabinet restructuring will be made in the shortest possible time and that several ministers could be reappointed."

Deputies will take over the ministers' responsibilities until replacements are nominated, according to the release, which added that only the minister for presidential affairs had been asked to stay in his post.

Sources told the Reuters news agency earlier on Wednesday that Ms Sirleaf had asked her cabinet to resign.

An analyst said the move may be part of her strategy to improve her chances in next year's election.

"Patience with her government is wearing thin over the issue of corruption," said Joseph Lake of the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit. "She faces a strong challenge in the 2011 presidential election from local hero George Weah and this may be an effort to freshen up a weary cabinet."

Ms Sirleaf has been in power since 2006 and was expected to seek another term in the planned 2011 poll.