Security Council approves extended Haiti peacekeeping force
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July 30, 1997
Web posted at: 7:31 p.m. EDT (2331 GMT)
UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council Wednesday approved a scaled down peacekeeping force to remain in Haiti for four months past its scheduled departure date at the end of the month.
The U.N. believes the extension is necessary to help stabilize and secure the country, a position also supported by Haiti President Rene Preval. He wants the peacekeepers to stay, citing ongoing security problems that have discouraged foreign investment and fostered crime, corruption and political turmoil.
"We believe that four more months of training of the national police force are needed," Preval said.
In its resolution Wednesday, the Security Council agreed to a reduced force of 950 troops, compared to the 1,600-member force currently in Haiti.
Dictatorship was shut down
The present U.N. force arrived in March 1995, six months after 20,000 U.S. troops intervened to topple an army-backed dictatorship and return former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.
The military dictatorship that ruled Haiti was shut down, the army disbanded and Haiti formed a civilian police force. It's still being trained by police officers from eight countries -- all organized by the U.N.
For now, U.N. police work along side the new force. But when the U.N. pulls out, the Haitian police alone will be responsible for the country's security.
"I don't think they're well equipped enough to do the job on their own," said Jean Claude Leganeur, a New York City Police officer who's training officers in Haiti.
'Individual rights are respected'
Officers lack the basics -- holsters, radios and patrol cars. Despite the lack of gear, human rights observers give the police credit.
"Individual rights are respected," said Colin Granderson, U.N. Human rights Mission Director in Haiti. "They're respected in a way they haven't been since we got here in 1993."
But Haitian democracy is fragile. The economy is in tatters, and some observers say the country teeters too close to turmoil.
With so much at stake, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson pushed hard for a four-month extension of the U.N. mission, an effort he said will "will further bolster the rule of law, development, democratization and peace" in Haiti.
Added William Swing, the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti: "It's cheaper to support democracy than to have to clean up the ravages of an autocratic regime."
Wednesday's vote came two days after a general strike, called by opponents of any U.N. extension, paralyzed business in Haiti's second-largest city, Cap Haitian, and in parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Opponents argued the U.N. troops will be used to force acceptance of an internationally backed plan to modernize Haiti's economy, including laying off thousands of state workers.
In recent weeks Haitian demonstrators, some of them supporters of Aristide, burned tires and threw rocks at the U.N. peacekeepers, protesting the presence of foreign troops.
A growing number of Haitians are frustrated that the peacekeepers have been ordered not to intervene in Haitian disputes or violence. While Aristide has remained quiet on the issue, his parliamentary supporters have been vocal.
In any event, Wednesday's extension is likely to be the last the U.N. will grant -- four months to ensure Haiti's new protectors of peace are ready.
Correspondent Pat Neal and Reuters contributed to this report.
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