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Rice Assures Haitian Prime Minister of Continued US Support


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged continued U.S. political and economic support for Haiti at a meeting Wednesday with the impoverished Caribbean country's prime minister, Jacques-Edouard Alexis. Mr. Alexis reported progress in curbing violence in Haiti. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The upheaval in Haiti that led to the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004 chased away most of the foreign investment that had buoyed the country's economy after the restoration of democracy a decade earlier.

But the Haitian prime minister says his government, backed by the U.N. stabilization force MINUSTAH, is making headway in curbing violence and crime, and is promising returning investors a favorable climate for business.

At a news appearance with Secretary Rice following talks here, Mr. Alexis claimed "significant results" in recent months on improving security and on economic fundamentals. The Haitian official said the task now is to raise the income of Haitians through jobs and investment:

"That's why we're asking our partners in the United States to help Haiti get back in business," said Jacques-Edouard Alexis. "I can say for sure that greater and greater efforts will be made in order for American corporations to come and do business in Haiti. And for that we'll create a regulatory and security environment that will be attractive to investment."

Secretary Rice said the Bush administration has earmarked $200 million for aid to Haiti for the current fiscal year, on top of the more than $600 million provided since 2004, calling it an expression of U.S. confidence that Haiti will overcome what she termed its "historic challenges."

She stressed a $20-million U.S. aid initiative beginning this month targeting the most impoverished and crime-ridden areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince:

"We will make certain that a good deal of that money goes to very dangerous, still dangerous, places like the Cite Soliel, which we hope will give to those people a sense of hope, a sense of a future, so that they can turn away from dangerous pursuits and toward education, jobs and a better life," said Condoleezza Rice.

Both Rice and the Haitian prime minister hailed an initiative announced during Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's Washington visit late last week under which Brazil and the United States will work with Haiti and other Caribbean states on biofuels projects.

President Bush, in his meeting with his Brazilian counterpart, stressed U.S. appreciation for Brazil's lead role in the 9,000 - member U.N. stabilization force, which has been in Haiti for nearly three years.

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