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Haiti Leader Asks for Tougher UN Peacekeeping Mandate


Haiti's prime minister has asked the United Nations to toughen its peacekeepers' mandate in light of a fresh wave of violence sweeping his country.

Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue told U.N. officials that the 8,000 peacekeepers sent to his country are not enough. He says the force, known as MINUSTAH, is both too small and too passive in the face of armed gangs, many of them seeking the return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"There is a long, long possibility for improvement, improvement of two kinds, quantitative change, imagine we are a population of 8.5 million, we have only 4,000 police, and with MINUSTAH, 7,000 military, 1,000 police, whereas all the specialists in the country say for a population that size, we need 40,000 police officers," he said.

Mr. Latortue made clear he does not expect the U.N. force in Haiti to reach anywhere near 40,000 in size. Secretary General Annan recommended last month that the force be increased to about 9,000 soldiers and police officers.

U.S. officials have also suggested dispatching more international troops to Haiti in advance of general elections scheduled for later this year, and giving them a stronger mandate. The U.S. ambassador in Port-au-Prince, James Foley, has criticized the Brazilian-led MINUSTAH force for not being more aggressive in helping police combat armed gangs loyal to Mr. Aristide, who was toppled in an armed uprising early last year.

Aristide sympathizers, in turn, accuse peacekeepers of turning a blind eye to police atrocities against them.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday she is dispatching her top envoy for western hemisphere affairs to Haiti soon to assess needs there.

At a meeting of the Organization of American States in Florida Monday, Ms. Rice called developments in Haiti "troubling" and urged organizations interested in helping the country to take a hard look at whether the force posture is adequate.

Haiti is the western hemisphere's poorest nation, and has been mired in political and economic turmoil for years.

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