Fri, Aug 03, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Ban recommends UN force in Haiti stay another year

AP , PORT-AU-PRINCE

UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon said he would recommend peacekeepers stay in Haiti for at least another year and urged world donors to redouble efforts to ensure the impoverished nation does not backslide into chaos.

In his first visit to the country on Wednesday, Ban credited an 8,800-strong peacekeeping force, known as Minustah, with restoring security following a violent 2004 revolt but said Haitian President Rene Preval still needed help bringing jobs and development to the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

"The international community must not step aside and let spoilers jeopardize Haiti's progress," Ban told reporters during a joint news conference with Preval at Haiti's National Palace.

The UN force was deployed to Haiti after a revolt toppled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and plunged the former French colony of 8 million people into crisis. Backed by Preval, peacekeepers this year concluded a fierce crackdown on armed gangs that has led to a dramatic reduction in violence in Port-au-Prince's vast, fetid slums.

But Ban said the situation was fragile and that he would ask the UN Security Council to extend the mandate for another 12 months when it expires in October.

Preval said he supported keeping UN troops in the country for now and urged his countrymen not to oppose the force out of nationalism.

"The population has benefited from the presence of Minustah," Preval said. "What is good for the country is for the UN to help us reinforce our police and our security. As time goes on, we'll evaluate what form this assistance should take and how long it should last."

Ban praised Preval for taking a stand against corruption and seeking much-needed reforms to the police, judiciary and prison system. He is expected to ask the Security Council for more specialized forces such as naval units to help the Caribbean country guard its coastline from weapons and drug traffickers.

Despite the improved security, UN officials said gangs, drug trafficking and poverty were still a threat to the country and that peacekeepers would be needed at least until Preval's term ends in 2011.

UN peacekeepers provide 85 percent of Haiti's security needs, but the government is working to eventually take over. The national police academy is preparing hundreds of recruits to bolster the nation's 6,000-police force.

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