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26341: (news) Chamberlain: Rice arrives in Haiti for visit ahead of elections (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Sept 27 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice arrived in Haiti on Tuesday for a one-day visit aimed at
showing U.S. support for November elections in the violent, poor Caribbean
During her visit, Rice will meet leaders of the interim government and
representatives of the United Nations mission in Haiti whose more than
7,000 peacekeepers have been battling to secure the country ahead of Nov.
The legislative and presidential elections are the first in Haiti
since ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was driven into exile on Feb. 29,
2004, after a bloody uprising in the poorest country in the Americas.
Hundreds have been killed in the lead-up to the election, and there is
concern over whether the country can stage free and fair elections.
"They need to make the elections work," said a senior U.S. State
Department official who accompanied Rice. "They have a hell of a job to
Rice flew on a heavily armed U.N. helicopter from the Port-au-Prince
airport to the presidential palace to meet officials of Haiti's interim
government, which was installed after Aristide's departure. She flew over
sprawling, dusty slums before landing on a lush lawn on the palace grounds.
Security was tight for Rice's trip, which is aimed at showing Haiti's
importance to Washington. U.N. soldiers in armored troop carriers and U.S.
security forces were stationed outside the palace.
When ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Haiti in December
2004, shooting broke out outside the palace as he was inside talking with
interim government officials.
A congressional delegation joined Rice on her trip to Haiti. Ohio
Republican Sen. Mike DeWine said the United States needed to show its
commitment to Haiti but he was realistic about the country's prospects.
"Haiti is full of disappointments," DeWine told reporters on route to
Haiti aboard Rice's plane.
The United States gave $174.4 million to Haiti in 2004 and has
promised $205 million this year.