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Chile to Take Key Role in Haiti's Reconstruction - 2004-07-20

As part of a new U.N. mission to rebuild Haiti and prepare it for democratic elections, the government of Chile is planning to send engineers and police officers to help stabilize the country.

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar says his country will send 80 engineers to rebuild Haiti's infrastructure and 36 police officers to help train Haitian security forces.

The Chilean leader met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York Tuesday to discuss ways to assist the interim Haitian government. President Lagos said he hopes the U.N. mission will lead to rapid improvement in the troubled country.

"We believe the role of the United Nations is central," he said. "And it is on the basis of this that Chile decided to take an active role in Haiti."

Observers say the move marks another step by Chile, which has been run by a democratic government since the end of military dictator Augusto Pinochet's rule in 1990, to help foster democracy in the region.

Last week, former Chilean Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdes became the head of the new U.N. mission in Haiti. The U.N. peacekeeping operation, which is expected to number more than seven thousand troops and security officers, replaces a smaller, U.S.-led mission that arrived after a rebellion ousted Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in February.

Meanwhile, an international conference of some 20 financial donors is being held in Washington to try and raise $1 billion for Haiti's transition. The United States has pledged $230 million.