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#2850: UN Calls for Speedy Haiti Elections (fwd)


Wednesday March 15 3:24 PM ET 
 UN Calls for Speedy Haiti Elections

 By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer 

 UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council called for speedy
elections in Haiti as it ended a three-year mission to train the
country's national police Wednesday and handed over responsibility for
helping restore democracy to a new U.N. mission. ``The Security Council
considers that timely, free and fair elections are crucial to democracy
and all aspects of Haiti's development,'' council president Anwarul
Chowdhury said in a statement read at an open meeting of the 15-member
body. President Rene Preval had called legislative and municipal
elections after dissolving Parliament in January 1999 to end a political
impasse that had paralyzed Haiti's government since disputed elections
in 1997. Two rounds of voting were originally set for November and
December, then delayed to March 19 and April 30 - and then delayed
again. Last week Haiti's electoral council rescheduled the vote for
April 9 and May 21 - but Preval has challenged the council's authority
to set new dates. The Security Council strongly urged Haitian
authorities to cooperate in finalizing arrangements for credible
 elections to restore both the lapsed Parliament and local governments
as quickly as possible. The council voted in December to end its mission
to train the Haitian police force March 15, which then was expected to
be just a few days before elections. The police force was established in
1995 to replace a corrupt army that killed as many as 4,000 civilians.
The U.N. mission arrived in 1997, replacing a 1,300-member U.N.
peacekeeping force, which had taken over for American troops. The U.S.
troops entered the country in September 1994, removing a military junta
and reinstalling Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president. The U.N. police
training force is being replaced by a new mission created by the General
Assembly in December to try to help strengthen Haiti's fragile democracy
and encourage long-term international support. The International
Civilian Support Mission in Haiti, which will start operating on
Thursday, is to help reform Haiti's justice system, professionalize the
police, support human rights and assist in organizing elections. It is
also mandated to coordinate international aid. The yearlong mission has
a $10.3 million budget, and is targeted to have 150 international staff
when fully deployed. But U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard noted that
contributions were voluntary - not mandatory - and that the number of
people sent to Haiti would depend on the amount of money collected from
U.N. member states.