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24761: Craig (pub) U.N. to Assess Work of Haiti Peacekeepers
U.N. to Assess Work of Haiti Peacekeepers
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: April 13, 2005
Filed at 4:23 p.m. ET
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- The U.N. Security Council began its first
visit to Haiti on Wednesday, seeking to evaluate the work of thousands
of U.N. peacekeepers trying to stabilize the impoverished country more
than a year after the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Despite gunfights in recent weeks between U.N. troops and politically
aligned gangs, Brazilian U.N. Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg said
the council members are pleased the year-old peacekeeping mission is
making progress in reducing violence before fall elections.
''There is a profound conviction among the members that we are doing
well, that we are doing right,'' said Sardenberg, the current council
president who is leading the four-day visit.
Officials said they expected the Security Council would decide to extend
the mission beyond June, when its mandate is due to expire, in order
maintain peacekeepers in Haiti through the elections set for October and
''Haiti's progress toward elections is being followed by the whole
world,'' Sardenberg said. ''The fact that there is a trend toward
stabilization is quite clear in my mind.''
Some Haitians and diplomats also have credited the peacekeeping mission
with starting to produce results after months of inaction.
''Honestly I didn't think they would come and save this country,'' said
Guy Philippe, a leader of last year's rebellion against Aristide. ''I
think they're working now.''
U.N. soldiers and civilian police have moved more aggressively in recent
weeks against armed bands believed responsible for a series of attacks
on peacekeepers and Haitian police. The mission had been criticized for
its reluctance to use force.
''It's got momentum. It's proven that it's willing to defend the Haitian
people against lawless elements and it needs to finish the job,'' U.S.
Ambassador James Foley told The Associated Press ahead of the visit.
However, many in Haiti and abroad have accused the U.N. peacekeeping
force of wrongs ranging from ineffectiveness to enabling political
repression and murder.
The pro-Aristide Catholic Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste said the United Nations
had generated goodwill among the poor by beginning to protect protesters
from trigger-happy Haitian police. But he said police shootings of
demonstrators last month brought back anger against U.N. forces.
''The honeymoon they had for a short time with the people, they are
losing it,'' said Jean-Juste, a potential candidate for president.
More than 400 people have died since September in clashes among pro- and
anti-Aristide street gangs, police, peacekeepers and ex-soldiers who
helped oust Aristide.
It was the U.N. Security Council's first trip to the Caribbean region.
All 15 nations on the council were represented, sending either their
U.N. ambassador or a deputy.
The visit comes just days after U.N. police advisers coordinated Haitian
police operations that resulted in the shooting deaths of prominent
rebel Remissaninthe Ravix and one-time pro-Aristide gang leader Jean
Rene Anthony, who officials said had joined forces against the police
and United Nations.
Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said last week he would tell the
Security Council conditions have improved dramatically. He was due to
meet the council Thursday.
''There is a world of difference in Haiti today,'' Latortue said.
The diplomats arrived 11 months after they authorized a U.N. force of
6,700 troops and 1,622 international police as well as political and
human rights experts to help stabilize Haiti.
The Brazilian-led U.N. mission replaced a U.S.-led force that arrived
after a three-week uprising led up to Aristide's departure on Feb. 29,
2004. Aristide now lives in exile in South Africa.