Sat, Jun 11, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Haiti's transition on track: envoys

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI

A Haitian boy stops at a checkpoint manned by Brazilian peacekeepers at the entrance to the Cite de Soleil neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Thursday.

PHOTO: EPA

Despite clear failures by the police and 8,000 UN peacekeepers to make the streets here safe from violent gangs, US Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega and special envoys from Canada, France and Brazil expressed confidence during a visit here on Thursday that Haiti's political transition was on course.

They said they expected national elections to be held in four months, as planned.

"We want to send a strong message," said Ambassador Daniel Parfait of France.

"We want elections in Haiti. And we want them to happen on time. We know that the elections will not change everything, but without them, nothing will change," he said.

More than a year after an armed rebellion and the departure of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile, there have been no improvements in the quality of life for most Haitians -- no reconciliation among disparate political factions, no end to the violence.

In recent months, entire neighborhoods and major roads have fallen under the control of criminal gangs who have unleashed a wave of killings, kidnappings and robberies.

National elections are to begin in October, but infighting has crippled the Haitian agency charged with organizing the vote.

A UN official helping the government organize the elections said fewer than 100,000 of the 4 million potential voters had been registered. Fewer than a quarter of the registration centers needed have been opened. There are no clear candidates or campaigns.

The biggest obstacle seemed to be the rampant insecurity. The UN forces, led by Brazil, have been widely criticized for failing to crack down on the street gangs and drug traffickers in the slums.

An editorial on Sunday in the Washington Post reported that the US Embassy here had requested that the Bush administration send a battalion of marines to help the UN fight crime.

Neither Ambassador James Foley nor Noriega would say whether the US was considering sending troops. But Noriega urged the UN to get tough.

"We regard it as extremely important that the United Nations take the necessary measures to fulfill their mandate," Noriega said.

"It is urgent that they respond to the wave of violence and to the insecurity to assure the Haitian people that they are safe, he said."

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