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Clinton Urges Haiti to Persist in Bid for Fair Elections

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, accompanied by US ambassador to Haiti Kenneth H. Merten, right, waves to journalists upon her arrival to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 30, 2011.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has returned from a trip to Haiti, where she met with presidential candidates and urged the Haitian people not to give up on democracy despite a disputed presidential election.

Clinton told a reporter Sunday that her message to the Haitian people is that democracy is worth investing in. She said the United States supports the recommendation of the Organization of American States that the president's chosen successor Jude Celestin should withdraw from the March 20 runoff vote amid evidence of election fraud in his favor in the first round in November.

Clinton met separately with each of the presidential candidates - Celestin, Michel Martelly, and front-runner Mirlande Manigat - during her visit.

Clinton also told reporters the United States has no plans to suspend earthquake recovery aid to Haiti over the disputed vote. She said the U.S. is "impatient" to get more work done to help the country recover.

During her trip, Clinton also visited a treatment center for the cholera outbreak that has killed 4,000 Haitians since October.

The publication of preliminary election results last month triggered days of violent protests by opposition supporters angered by what they saw as vote-rigging by Haiti's government.

Haiti's ruling party has urged Celestin to pull out of the presidential race, but he has not confirmed his exit. Haiti's election commission has said it will publish final results of the disputed first round of voting on Wednesday.

Haiti is struggling to recover from last year's earthquake that left more than 200,000 people dead and 1 million others homeless.