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Obama pledges to continue Haiti aid, says situation 'remains dire'

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Pres. Obama on Haiti relief
  • Obama met Wednesday with Haitian President Rene Preval
  • The two discussed relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts in Haiti
  • Haiti had a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck January 12
  • U.S. will continue to be "a steady and reliable partner," Obama told Preval

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama met Wednesday with Haitian President Rene Preval to discuss relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

The two leaders pledged to continue working for a more coordinated, sustained global relief effort to help Haiti recover from a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck January 12.

Much of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, was destroyed, and more than 217,000 people were killed, according to the latest figures from international relief organizations.

The situation on the ground in Haiti "remains dire," Obama said at the White House. A continuing desperate need for food, medicine and shelter will be exacerbated by the onset of Haiti's spring rain season, he said.

"You will continue to have a steady and reliable partner in the United States of America," Obama promised Preval.

Preval extended his thanks "not only for the material aid" from the United States, but also for America's "psychological response," which made Haitians realize "we were not alone."

Washington has already provided $700 million in aid to Haiti. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday a donors conference is planned in New York for the end of March. More than half of all United States households have made private contributions to Haitian relief, Clinton said.

Preval said Tuesday his country is working to get its election timetable rescheduled, telling reporters after meeting with Clinton that political stability is "fundamental" for the development of a country. "I think that is what constitutes a guarantee for investors, for the population -- that there's some guarantees, that there's some security about their future," he said.

Parliamentary elections set for February were postponed, and it is unclear whether a presidential election scheduled for the fall can proceed.

Clinton said she assured Preval "that the United States would work with the international community to hold elections as soon as appropriate."

CNN's Charley Keyes contributed to this report.

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