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Rice Visits Haiti Tuesday to Support Electoral Process

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flies to Haiti Tuesday for a visit underlining U.S. support for elections there in November. On the eve of the trip, she discussed Haiti with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, whose government heads the United Nations stabilization force in the country.

Ms. Rice's visit to Haiti will come less than two months before the start of Haiti's first elections since the political upheaval in early 2004 that drove former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from office.

State Department officials say the aim of the one-day visit will be to demonstrate U.S. support for the electoral process, and to encourage others in the international community, especially Hemisphere countries, to do the same.

Haiti has been torn by gang warfare and political violence since the departure of Mr. Aristide for exile last year. The unrest has disrupted the registration process for the presidential and legislative voting, which begins in November.

However, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the level of violence has diminished of late, due largely to efforts by the Brazilian-led 7,600 member U. N. Stabilization Force in Haiti, known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH:

"I think what we have seen is an environment that has become increasingly secure. That said, there are still pockets of real difficulty, and we are going to be working with MINUSTAH as well as other members of the international community to see that Haitians have the safest, most secure possible environment for their election," he said.

A senior official who spoke to reporters here said the Bush administration sees the elections as an opportunity for Haitians, after all the country's political turmoil, to get on a pathway toward a better life.

He said all countries in the hemisphere have a stake in doing whatever they can to assist Haiti, the region's most impoverished country.

While in Port-au-Prince, Ms. Rice will meet senior officials of Haiti's interim government including President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.

Earlier this month, she took part in a meeting in New York of the international "core group" on Haiti that includes the United States and key hemisphere countries as well as the United Nations and Organization of American States.

She also discussed the Haitian situation at a luncheon meeting Monday with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim that covered other issues, including Brazil's bid for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat.

The senior official said Ms. Rice reiterated U.S. support for the expansion of the council by "two or so" countries, one of them being Japan, but made no commitment with regard to Brazil.