Haiti Archives 1995-1996
29/02/96 HAITI: U.N. Wins Last-Minute Reprieve for Peacekeepers

Copyright 1995 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 29 (IPS) – The U.N. Security Council Thursday clinched a deal to keep the world body’s peacekeepers in Haiti for another four months, hours before the force’s mandate was set to expire.

With the U.N. Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) slated to wind up its one-year term by Friday, the Council had feared that China’s objections to any extension would spell the demise of the force.

But after days of haggling, China, which initially had asked for the peacekeepers to begin their departure promptly on Mar 1, agreed to accept the maintenance of 1,200 troops and 300 civilian police in Haiti for another four months.

In addition, Canada — which now replaces the United States as the main military force supporting UNMIH — has promised to provide an additional 700 troops to bolster the force, which will be outside of U.N. command. The troops, however, will take orders from the new commander of UNMIH, who is to be a general seconded from the Canadian military.

In that way, one U.S. diplomat told IPS, the peacekeepers will field a force capable of providing security for Haiti’s fragile democracy, while China can be satisfied that only 1,500 U.N. officers will remain in the country.

‘’We have found a flexible way to deal with the numerical problem, thanks to the goodwill of the Canadian government,’’ he said.

China, which has veto power in the Council but rarely uses it, threatened to do so to end the Haiti mission if the United Nations insisted on its initial demands to keep more than 2,000 soldiers in Haiti for the next six months.

Underlying the Chinese threat was Beijing’s anger that outgoing Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had invited the vice president of Taiwan to his successor Rene Preval’s inauguration on Feb 7. Beijing insists Taiwan is still part of the People’s Republic of China.

Aristide earlier had incurred Beijing’s wrath by calling for Taiwan’s inclusion as an independent member at the United Nations.

Now, U.N. officials hope, UNMIH can remain at a decent troop strength for a few months longer, while the United Nations waits for tempers to cool on the Taiwan gaffes. ‘’We will have four months to get this matter behind us,’’ said one U.S. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

That may be difficult. Beijing repeatedly threatened over the past week to veto the force’s extension, reportedly still upset that the Haitian government has accepted millions of dollars from Taiwan and has in turn sought international recognition for Taipei.

For the time being, however, Rene Preval’s government can be relieved that the UNMIH force, although down from its peak of some 60,000 troops, can still be relied upon to maintain security in Haiti.

Although U.N. officials say violence in Haiti recently has been confined to criminal activity, there re[XZ∑êan untold number of armed supporters of the former military junta, which briefly ousted Aristide in 1991 and was only put down in 1994.

The Haitian National Police, which replaces the previous military-linked police, is regarded as too inexperienced to handle the country’s security immediately. Aristide, meanwhile, dissolved the Army, which has left UNMIH responsible for much of the country’s security since February 1995. (END/IPS/FAH/YJC/96)

Origin: Washington/HAITI/ ----

[c] 1995, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS) All rights reserved

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