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#2863: UN Calls for Speedy Haiti Elections (fwd)
Thursday March 16 4:32 AM ET
UN Calls for Speedy Haiti Elections
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - A new U.N. civilian mission takes over in Haiti
today with the goal of helping reform the country's justice system,
supporting human rights and assisting in organizing elections.
The Security Council ended its three-year mission to train Haiti's
national police on Wednesday, saying ``timely, free and fair elections
are crucial to democracy and all aspects of Haiti's development.''
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 delayed again. Last week,
Haiti's electoral council rescheduled the vote for April 9 and May 21 -
but Preval has challenged their authority to set new dates. The new
International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti, established by the
General Assembly, is not only mandated to assist in organizing
elections but is also charged with continuing efforts to professionalize
the police and to coordinate international aid. Even before it starts,
however, it faces financial problems. The year long mission has a $24
million budget and is targeted to have 150 international staff when it
is fully deployed. But only $9.7 million will come from the U.N. budget.
The rest must be raised from voluntary contributions, said U.N.
spokesman David Wimhurst. The only contribution so far is $3.5 million
from Canada, and it has not yet been officially received, he said.
U.S. officials said the Clinton administration is working with Congress
to ensure that the United States makes a voluntary contribution ``in a
timely fashion.'' U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the number of people
sent to Haiti will depend on the amount of money contributed. The
Security Council voted in December to end its mission to train and
professionalize the Haitian national police force. The mission was
scheduled to end on March 15 - then expected to be just a few days
before elections. The force was established in 1995 to replace a corrupt
army that killed as many as 4,000 civilians. The U.N. police 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 Security Council commended Secretary-General
Kofi Annan for ensuring a phased transition to the new U.N. mission and
said it recognizes that ``significant international assistance is
indispensable'' for Haiti's economic rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Nonetheless, the council stressed that the Haitian people and government
``bear the ultimate responsibility for national reconciliation, the
maintenance of a secure and stable environment, the administration of
justice and the reconstruction of their country.''