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UN Authorizes Multinational Force to Haiti - 2004-03-01

The U.N. Security Council has authorized the immediate dispatch of a multinational force to Haiti.

Meeting in an emergency session late Sunday night, the Council gave a three-month life to a multinational peacekeeping force. The resolution, adopted by a 15 - 0 margin, says the Council is prepared to establish a follow-up U.N. Stabilization force after the three-month deadline expires.

Diplomats say the multinational force will initially be led by the United States, with additional troops from France, Canada, Brazil, and other states in the region.

As he emerged from the session, Secretary General Kofi Annan said the rapid Security Council action should send a strong message of support to the Haitian people.

"We understand their need, and we are standing by them in their hour of need. And the international community will do whatever it can to help stabilize the situation," said Mr. Annan. "I know some of them may think that it's a bit late, but it's always better than never, it's better late than never, and we will do whatever we can to support them."

Washington's U.N. ambassador John Negroponte said the Security Council vote had take place just as the first U.S. Marine contingents arrived in Haiti. Speaking of the days of diplomatic wrangling that went on while Haiti teetered on the brink, Ambassador Negroponte said the final outcome was a victory both for Haiti and for U.N. diplomacy.

"We also can take some satisfaction that the Council was able to react so rapidly to the situation, this was a very encouraging development indeed," said Mr. Negroponte. "It's a new page in the political life of Haiti. I think it was also a positive step as far as the Security Council is concerned."

The Haiti initiative was largely the work of the United States and France, who put aside differences over Iraq and cooperated closely. French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere called the Security Council's response encouraging. "What was today at stake was capacity of international community to respond quickly," he said. "This has been done."

Diplomats say the emergency Sunday session was called after an urgent appeal for help from Haiti's new President Baniface Alexandre. Mr. Alexandre was sworn in shortly after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned and went into exile early Sunday morning.