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UN Extends Haiti Peacekeeping Mission for Eight Months

The U.N. Security Council has approved an eight-month extension of its peacekeeping mission in Haiti. VOA's Peter Heinlein reports from U.N. headquarters in New York.

The vote to extend the Haiti peacekeeping mandate was unanimous. But it came after a bout of behind the scenes wrangling among Council members.

When the 9,000-strong U.N. force, known by the acronym MINUSTAH was established in 2004, diplomats spoke of the need for a 20-year commitment to providing stability in Haiti. They noted that the premature withdrawal of previous U.N. missions had led to a resumption of lawlessness.

Most Council members, including the United States, along with Latin American representatives Peru and Panama, had favored a 12-month extension as a sign of the world body's continuing commitment to helping Haiti rebuild.

But China, which does not have diplomatic relations with Port au-Prince, argued for a six-month renewal. The two sides compromised at eight months.

Chinese diplomats denied that their objection was linked to Haiti's diplomatic recognition of Beijing's rival, Taiwan. China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, argued that a shorter mandate is better in view of the peacekeepers' controversial crackdown on Haiti's criminal gangs.

"MINUSTAH has recently reinforced its military operations against armed gangs," he said. "Though necessary in the short run, such military operations cannot be a long-term strategy. Certain paragraphs of the draft resolution overemphasize military means but fail to pay adequate attention to such important priorities as political reconciliation and economic recovery."

The resolution adopted Thursday calls on the U.N. force to "continue the increased tempo of operations" in support of the Haitian police campaign to subdue street gangs, especially in Port au-Prince.

Haiti remains one of the world's poorest countries. Recent reports show 80 percent of the Caribbean nation's 8.3 million people live below the poverty line, with more than half living on less than $1 a day.

The Brazilian-led U.N. mission arrived in Haiti in July 2004 to help stop the violent unrest sparked by the uprising that ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.