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UN Peacekeeper Killed in Haitian Slum

A U.N. Peacekeeper from the Philippines was killed in Haiti Thursday. The death comes amid the U.N. Security Council visit to the troubled Caribbean nation.

The U.N. peacekeeper was killed by a gunshot wound while setting up a checkpoint in the slum of Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince. This is the third peacekeeper killed in two months.

The death occurred on the second day of the U.N. Security Council's four-day visit to Haiti. The U.N diplomats have come to evaluate the security situation and discuss changing the U.N. mandate, known as MINUSTAH.

The Head of the Security Council Mission, Mr. Ronaldo Sardenberg of Brazil, condemned what he called "the murder of the Philippine soldier." He said the peacekeeper died in pursuit of peace under the U.N. mandate. He said members of the Security Council condemned the rising violence in Haiti's capital city, and demanded all efforts be made to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"They condemn with the utmost vigor both this despicable act committed against a peacekeeper and continued violence against MINUSTAH, representatives of the international community and the people of Haiti. In this regard they express their solidarity with the inhabitants of Cite Soleil who face violence and intimidation by armed groups," said Mr. Sardenberg. "The purpose of MINUSTAH's presence in Cite Soleil is to assist the population to recover stability and social progress."

The U.N. mission to Haiti was authorized by the Security Council following a rebellion that forced former president Jean- Bertrand Aristide into exile in February of 2004. But the U.N. forces have come under criticism for their failure to provide stability in the year following Mr. Aristide's departure.

Since late September, over 400 people have been killed in a rising tide of violence. Armed groups loyal to Mr. Aristide battle his opponents as well as police in gang-controlled slums around the capital.

U.N. officials say they may expand the U.N. mandate in Haiti to include more peacekeepers and international election monitors for presidential elections in November. They say they are looking into extending the mandate, to provide security for the elections.

In a statement issued Thursday, Haiti's interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue, asked for more international assistance to disarm the militant armed groups. Mr. Latortue also said that beyond disarming the gangs, the international community must also address Haiti's widespread poverty and environmental degradation.

Some international observers say that tens of thousands of high-powered firearms are circulating among armed gangs. So far, a U.N. disarmament program has produced only a handful of weapons.