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24 March 2004

U.S. Forces Helping to Stabilize Parts of Haiti Beyond Port-au-Prince

U.S. Dept. of Defense gives updates on situation in Haiti

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S.-led Multinational Interim Force in Haiti is helping to stabilize parts of the country beyond the national capital of Port-au-Prince, says the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

In a March 23 update on peacekeeping operations in the troubled nation, DOD said the multinational force now has 3,300 troops in Haiti, with almost half of the troops from the United States. DOD said the work being done in Haiti by the force also has a new name: "Operation Secure Tomorrow." The United Nations authorized the interim peacekeeping force following former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's February 29 resignation from office.

President Bush has said he ordered the deployment of U.S. Marines into Haiti, as the leading element of an interim international force, to help bring order and stability to that nation. "I have done so in working with the international community," said Bush. "This government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the country's history."

DOD said the mission of the multinational contingent of troops is to return the country to stability and prepare the way for a follow-on force from the United Nations. DOD said the interim force is confiscating illegal weapons from both opponents and supporters of Aristide because the weapons represent a serious impediment to stability in the nation. DOD said criminal gangs possess thousands of illegal weapons in Haiti.

The U.S. State Department has said that once security is stabilized in Haiti, the Haitian government, in conjunction with the multinational interim force and then a follow-on U.N. stabilization force, will undertake a systematic disarmament program in the country.

Meanwhile, the United States was one of a group of donor nations that met March 23 with international financial institutions and other groups to explore what the next steps should be to address Haiti's problems. The U.S. delegation at the meeting was led by Adolfo Franco, assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Participants at the meeting, held in Washington under the auspices of the World Bank, agreed to propose to Haiti's interim government the launch of a joint government/multi-donor assessment of the country's economic, social, and institutional needs. The World Bank said the proposed assessment could result in the preparation of a national reconstruction plan for Haiti, covering both short-term and medium-term programs for Haiti. Along with the United States, participants at the meeting included delegations from Chile, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the European Commission, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Organization of American States.

Also attending the meeting was a representative from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). In a March 22 statement, PAHO said that although the acute emergency phase in Haiti seems to be ending, the current crisis has disrupted Haitians' access to essential health care and interrupted key public health programs such as immunization, HIV/AIDS prevention, and tuberculosis control.

A PAHO official said a series of actions is needed in Haiti to prevent catastrophic health problems over the next six months, including providing access to essential health care services in key facilities, improving the security environment, and making emergency repairs to main water systems in large cities.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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