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Haiti's President-Elect Pleads for Long-Term Aid

Haiti's President-elect Rene Preval has appealed to the international community for a long-term commitment to help rebuild his impoverished country. Mr. Preval addressed the Security Council on the first stop of a three-day visit to the United States.

The Haitian president-elect told the Security Council ambassadors that his country, considered the poorest in the hemisphere, needs massive help over many years to allow democracy to take root. He spoke to an audience that included Secretary-General Kofi Annan as well as the foreign ministers of Argentina and Greece.

"Today, Haiti is a country waiting to be built," said Rene Preval. "The problems are enormous and there's widespread urgency; poverty, widespread underemployment. The state of dilapidation of basic infrastructures that are necessary for development, chronic insecurity, these are all the major challenges to be faced by the next government."

Mr. Preval said he came to the U.N. to ask for the support of the international community in providing long-term assistance.

"Increased financial assistance from the international community is proving to be indispensable to build upon the democratic process and lay the socio-economic basis for Haiti's sustainable development," he said.

Preval commended the work of the 7,500-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, for its work in creating stability for last month's elections. He called on the Brazilian-led force to intensify its work to help reform Haiti's notoriously weak and corrupt police force.

Later, at a news conference, he rejected a reporter's characterization of the peacekeepers as an occupation force, and said he would ask them to stay as long as is necessary.

"All international community thought it useful to assist Haiti," responded Rene Preval. "This mission, carried out satisfactory work, so we'll ask for it to continue, because we have police that are still extremely weak, unprofessional and corrupt, so it will be necessary to strengthen the police and justice system, so we will ask MINUSTAH, and it would be irresponsible for us to ask MINUSTAH to leave prematurely, just as it would be irresponsible on the part of the international community to withdraw MINUSTAH prematurely."

The Haitian leader stopped at the U.N. before a two-day trip to Washington, where he is to meet with President Bush and top Congressional leaders. He will also hold talks with international lending institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Mr. Preval was to have been sworn in as president this week, but the inauguration was delayed to allow a second round of legislative voting. He is now due to take office in early May.