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UN Humanitarian Mission Leaves For Haiti

First Members Of UN Humanitarian Mission Leave For Haiti

With United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan saying the international commitment to Haiti could be needed for "10 years or more," the first group from a UN multidisciplinary team went to the troubled Caribbean country today as humanitarian assessment missions resumed in its provinces.

"An inter-agency team, comprising representatives from the World Food Programme ( WFP) and the UN Development Programme ( UNDP), is scheduled to assess needs in Gonaïves and Hinche today - if security conditions allow," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told journalists in New York.

Representatives of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO) said, meanwhile, that Haitian farmers might be unable to sell their harvests and earn money to buy essential food. In yesterday's emergency humanitarian appeal for $35 million, FAO included $4 million to help improve food security and meet the food needs of some 3 million people.

In a separate development, the Secretary-General, in his address yesterday to both Houses of the Canadian Parliament, made a special plea for a long-term commitment to Haiti. "Half-hearted efforts of the past have been insufficient," he said. "We cannot afford to fail this time."

At a subsequent news conference, which followed his meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin, Mr. Annan said the commitment to Haiti could be needed for at least 10 years.

He also said the Security Council, in passing a 29 February (2004) resolution whose preamble said the Council had taken note of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's resignation, had acted on the basis of a letter of resignation and the transfer of power to Haiti's Chief Justice.

The Council had determined that a multinational force was needed because of the volatility in the country, Mr. Annan said.

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