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Powell Warns Haiti May Lose Aid Without New Elections - 2003-06-09

Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Haitian authorities Monday they risk losing support from hemisphere countries later this year if they failed to heed calls by the Organization of American States to facilitate new elections to resolve the country's political impasse. Mr. Powell spoke at the OAS General Assembly in the Chilean capital, Santiago.

OAS diplomats have seen several deadlines pass for action by the Haitian government to clear away the impasse left by the country's disputed elections in 2000.

But in his policy address to the OAS, Mr. Powell made clear the international community's patience over the issue is running out.

He announced the United States will provide another $1 million to the OAS mission seeking to improve the security climate for new Haitian elections, this on top of $70 million in U.S. humanitarian aid for Haiti this year.

But he said if President Jean Bertrand Aristide's government has not created conditions by September needed for the formation of a "credible, neutral and independent" provisional electoral council, the OAS should re-evaluate its role in Haiti.

"The people of Haiti have waited a long time, too long for their leaders to meet their obligations under OAS resolutions 806 and 822," he said. "Haiti's democracy and economic growth are undermined by the government's failure to create the conditions for an electoral solution to the political impasse."

Haitian politics have been stalemated since legislative elections in 2000 found to have rigged to favor Mr. Aristide's Lavalas party.

International lending to Haiti was cut off because of the election fraud, but though lending was unblocked by last September's OAS resolution 822 which also called for new elections this year.

The OAS sent its special mission to Port-au-Prince in March to try to clear the way for elections.

But OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria told assembled foreign ministers here Sunday that, while progress has been made in restoring Haiti's ties with the international banks, the political situation "has barely changed" from a year ago.

Mr. Gaviria nonetheless urged perseverance, saying the OAS cannot allow its member country most afflicted by social problems and underdevelopment to "lose its democratic way."