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Sarkozy makes landmark visit to Haiti

French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks with Haitian counterpart Rene Preval.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks with Haitian counterpart Rene Preval.
  • Sarkozy expected to meet Haiti's president and prime minister on flying visit
  • French leader is also expected to announce major aid plan for Haiti
  • Sarkozy is first European head of state to visit Haiti since quake

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- France's President Nicolas Sarkozy made a landmark visit to Haiti Wednesday, announcing more than $100 million of additional aid to the former French colony where 212,000 people were killed by an earthquake five weeks ago.

Sarkozy is the first French president ever to visit the country which has in the past demanded huge reparations from France to compensate for slavery-era exploitation before Haitian independence two centuries ago

He told a news conference that an extra €100 million ($136 million) was being made available to help reconstruction efforts, bringing France's contribution to the the aid effort to €320 million.

Sarkozy was scheduled to meet with Haitian President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and take a helicopter tour of earthquake-devastated zones, Sarkozy's office said.

He also planned to tour a French Civil Security hospital and meet with French teams and injured Haitians, his office said. He planned to meet members of the government involved in reconstruction and members of the United Nations mission in Haiti.

Sarkozy's trip was scheduled to last less than five hours, after which he planned to go to the French island of Martinique for an overnight stay. Thursday, Sarkozy planned to visit French Guiana on South America's northeastern coast before returning home, his office said.

Sarkozy is the first European head of state to visit Haiti since the January 12 earthquake, Agence France-Presse reported.

France has had close cultural ties with its former colony since independence, but diplomatic relations have sometimes been fraught, with Paris occasionally expressing concerns over instability in the Caribbean nation.

In 2004, France called for the resignation of then president Jean Bertrand Arstide, who was subsequently ousted in a 2004 rebellion, after his government demanded that France pay $21 billion in reparations.

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