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Preval Urges Reconstruction Emphasis in Haitian Provinces

Haitian President Rene Preval is urging a post-earthquake emphasis on developing the country's provinces, saying rebuilding the capital Port-au-Prince as it was before the January's quake would be "a major historical mistake." Mr. Preval met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

The talks focused on the international donors conference for Haiti to be held at the United Nations on March 31 in New York, which President Preval says will present a chance not only to re-build but also to "re-found" Haiti as a more politically and economically stable country.

At a joint news event with Secretary Clinton, the Haitian leader said the country's long-term recovery depends on good governance that will provide the confidence needed to attract foreign investment.

Mr. Preval said past national policies focused excessively on Port-au-Prince at the expense of Haiti's provinces, and that the migration to the capital meant shoddy housing construction and the mass earthquake casualties there.

Mr. Preval said the task now is not only to revive Port-au-Prince but to build and invest in the provinces. "To rebuild Port-au-Prince as it was before would be a major historical mistake.  And that is the message that I am trying to convey, not only to the Haitians, but also to my international partners," he said.

Though he provided no date, Mr. Preval stressed the importance of the early re-scheduling of national elections that were to have been held last month, but had to be postponed because of the earthquake disaster.

He said political stability is fundamental for Haiti's redevelopment. "What we must absolutely avoid is that we have a temporary provisional government that does not enjoy legitimacy.  We must have a government that does have political legitimacy," said the Haitian president.

Clinton, who will lead the U.S. delegation at the New York donor's conference, promised the American commitment to Haiti's recovery will be long-term. "I want to assure you again that the United States and President Obama and our administration remain committed to you.  We believe in Haiti's promise and are committed to Haiti's future," she said.

Clinton said more than half of all U.S. households had made relief contributions to Haiti on top of nearly $700 million in emergency U.S.-government assistance.

As part of the reconstruction effort, she urged other countries to match the tariff-free status given to Haitian apparel imports to the United States under a 2008 act of Congress.  

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