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#217: U.S. Withholds Haiti Election Aid (fwd)


Thursday July 22 4:42 PM ET 
U.S. Withholds Haiti Election Aid

By MICHAEL NORTON Associated Press Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - The United States said Thursday it is
withholding more than $10 million in election aid for Haiti because it
is unsatisfied with a new law that was supposed to resolve a
two-year-old governing crisis.The new laws nullify the results of the
1997 elections that were at the root of the power struggle that has
paralyzed Haiti since Premier Rosny Smarth resigned that June. Smarth
accused President Rene Preval of helping rig the elections to favor
supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.But problems have
surfaced immediately with the law, which spells out how local and
legislative elections will be organized this fall and was to have taken
effect Tuesday.However, the signatures of Preval and Haiti's nine-member
electoral council did not appear with the law when it was published
Tuesday in the government gazette, Le Moniteur. Laws in Haiti become
official when they are signed and published.The United States was also
bothered by other irregularlities in the law, including that it doesn't
specifically state how many Senate seats are up for election. Eager to
avoid any irregularities that might cause a boycott later, U.S.
officials are concerned the document doesn't make clear enough that the
1997 Senate seats are void.As a result, $10 million to $15 million in
elections aid will remain on hold indefinitely, said U.S. Embassy
spokesman Steve Pike. Haiti has said it can afford to put $9 million
toward the elections, which are expected to cost $18.3 million.
``It's not a transparent resolution of the April 1997 election
problem,'' Pike said of the law.Washington wanted Haiti to write
legislation that had broad political support, but most political parties
object to the new law,saying only Parliament can pass laws under Haiti's
constitution. Preval shut down Parliament in January and appointed a new
premier and elections council by decree in a bid to end the political
deadlock.Most political parties have boycotted elections since 1995,
claiming they were rigged by supporters of Aristide, who plans to
run for another presidential term in 2000.Also, some wording in the
published text differed from the original document, said Elections
Council Vice President Debussy Damier, who asked the government for an
explanation.Government officials could not be immediately reached for
comment.The government printing house, which publishes Le Moniteur, said
it will republish the law to add the signatures, Radio
Metropole reported Thursday. Officials did not say when it would be
republished.All 83 seats in the lower house, 19 seats of the 27-seat
upper house, 133 mayoral posts and hundreds of local consultative
assemblies will be contested this fall.