News / USA

Haitian PM: US Missionaries a 'Distraction'

Haitian prosecutors are to decide whether to pursue charges against 10 Americans accused of illegally trying to take Haitian children out of the earthquake-hit country

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive says the 10 American missionaries accused of illegally trying to take Haitian children out of the earthquake-hit country have become a "distraction" from the plight of Haitians.

Mr. Bellerive says "people are talking more now about 10 people than they are about one million people suffering in the streets."

Haitian prosecutors are to decide Thursday whether to pursue charges against the Americans. The government has suggested the case could be transferred to the United States.

The five men and five women were taken into custody last Friday as they tried to cross into the neighboring Dominican Republic with 33 children.  The Americans have said they were trying to help orphans, but many of the youngsters have living parents.

Some of the parents say they personally handed over their children after the missionaries promised them an education and a better life. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington Wednesday that the attempt to take the children out of Haiti was "unfortunate whatever the motivation."

More than three weeks after the 7.0 magnitude quake left the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince in ruins, many survivors are living in tents made out of bed sheets and still face a daily battle for proper food, water and medical care.

On Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked former U.S. President Bill Clinton Wednesday to coordinate the international operation to get relief to the victims.

Mr. Clinton, who is already the U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti, will return to the Caribbean country Friday to deliver supplies and meet with Haitian leaders.

The former president says he wants to ensure assistance continues to be "effective, coordinated and sustained, in the weeks and months to come."

Officials say some one million Haitians are homeless following the January 12 quake. Prime Minister Bellerive said Wednesday that more than 200,000 people were killed and 300,000 injured.    

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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