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29004: Rob: News: Haiti recalls overseas diplomats (fwd)

From: Rob 6969 <liberalproject@hotmail.com>

Haiti recalls overseas diplomats
Thursday 24th August, 2006   Posted: 16:17 CIT   (21:17 GMT)
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PORT–AU–PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Haiti will recall several overseas diplomats for alleged incompetence, including some suspected of corruption, the foreign minister said Wednesday.

The diplomats, all appointed by the U.S.–backed interim government that ruled the Caribbean nation between 2004 and 2006, could be fired or punished upon a review of their cases, Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Raynald Clarisme told The Associated Press.

The announcement came a day after Haitian legislators alleged that several million dollars (euros) may have disappeared during that period from at least three foreign missions: the Haitian Embassy in Washington, and missions in Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

The move could open the door for the first major probe into alleged corruption under the interim government, which was appointed after a revolt toppled former President Jean–Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.

Clarisme said the recalls "should happen very quickly" but declined to say which diplomats would be ordered home or from what countries. He said the move was first suggested by lawmakers, who recommended recalling diplomats for a review.

"The deputies have suggested we recall people who have been nominated by the interim government," Clarisme said. "I think it’s a wise approach and I’m willing to do that."

"We are working on cleaning house and putting order in the administration," he added.

Clarisme said the Haitian consul in Barahona, Dominican Republic, was fired this month for selling entry visas to Chinese migrants. He said other diplomats will be disciplined, but noted that most are accused of incompetence, not corruption.

"Some will be recalled, but we have to take it on a case–by–case basis," he said. "People involved in corruption will be severely reprimanded for their behavior."

In a legislative session Tuesday, Sorel Francois, a deputy in the lower house and president of the Commission on Foreign Affairs, said receipts showed that US$250,000 vanished from Haiti’s Embassy in Washington in June 2005.

He said another US$1.9 million was transferred from the same embassy to a nongovernment account in October 2005.

Reached by phone in Washington, Haitian Ambassador to the United States Raymond Joseph denied embezzling any funds.

"No money disappeared in Washington," Joseph said. "It didn’t go into my pocket or the pocket of anyone else."

Joseph, appointed by former interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue in 2004, said the money may have been used to pay bills owed by the government, including the purchase of weapons for Haiti’s police force.

"If there is a full audit of this embassy I have no doubt that everything will be very, very clear," he said.

Joseph said he didn’t know if he would be recalled, but said he would be present for an audit.

Joseph is the publisher of the New York–based weekly newspaper Haiti Observateur, and was an outspoken critic of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas political party. Francois, the legislator who alleged that funds disappeared, is a member of Fanmi Lavalas.

Joseph declined to say whether he thought the allegations against him were politically motivated.

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