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Haiti's President Says Nation No Longer Deserves Failed State Stigma

Haitian President Rene Preval told the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday the Caribbean country is on its way to escaping the stigma of being labeled a failed state because of its recent economic and security gains. Mr. Preval got a show of political support from senior U.S., European and Latin American diplomats on the sidelines of the U.N. debate. VOA's David Gollust reports from our U.N. bureau.

Haiti has been the beneficiary of massive international aid, and the support of a U.N. peacekeeping mission, since the explosion of political unrest in the country in 2004.

And President Preval told the General Assembly the outside assistance, and the improved security provided by the U.N. mission, MINUSTAH, are helping the country turn the corner toward political peace and economic recovery.

Delivering his country's policy speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Preval said Haiti has all too often been on the U.N.'s agenda because of chronic problems. But, he said the unwelcome characterization of the country as a failed state no longer applies.

"Haiti is on the way to bidding farewell to that state slowly, patiently, but with determination," he said. "Organized armed gangs who are responsible for violence directed against innocent populations have been dismantled. And there is no longer any no-go zone for peaceful citizens in any area of our territory. The governance of our economy has greatly improved. The money printer was put away, and this has reduced inflation below the 10 percent line, which had been rampant for a number of years, and just a few months ago had reached the dizzying heights of 40 percent."

Mr. Preval said that real growth has returned to the Haitian economy after more than 10 years of decline in the gross national product, and that his government has patiently worked to restore a climate of peace in the country's turbulent political life.

He said Haitians consider foreign troops on their country's soil as a wound to their national sovereignty. But he said, in practical terms, the presence of MINUSTAH - as the country's new security forces take shape - is the only realistic formula available enabling Haitians to restore freedom and peace.

The mandate of the Brazilian-led 7,100-member U.N. force is due to expire in mid-October, but U.N. officials say another one-year extension by the Security Council appears certain.

Before his U.N. address, Mr. Preval attended a meeting of an informal support group for Haiti that included diplomats from the United States, the European Union, the Organization of American States and the U.N.

Appearing with the Haitian president after the meeting, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said the Preval government is responsible for the strides of recent months and deserves continued American and other international support:

"The point of this meeting, the third we have had in the last three years, is to show support for President Preval, to show support for the government of Haiti, to show support for extraordinary progress that Haiti is making under his leadership in terms of renewed stability," he said. "And if you've been to Cite Soleil and Port-au-Prince, you see that - the fight against corruption, the fight against narcotics and the drug problem. And the importance of MINUSTAH, the United Nations military force remaining in Haiti for another year, the United States supports that for a one-year renewal."

Burns said the United States is providing Haiti with more than $200 million in economic and security aid this year, on top of the $600 million given since the 2004 upheaval that drove controversial former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power.