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UN Peacekeepers Face Armed Groups In Haiti

UN Peacekeepers Face Armed Groups And Street Gangs In Haitian Capital

Battling armed groups and street gangs that have attacked civilians and police officers and destroyed shops and properties, United Nations peacekeepers are helping Haitian National Police as they attempt to restore order to some of the most dangerous districts of the capital Port-au-Prince after a wave of deadly violence.

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdés, told UN Radio last night that he met again with interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and other senior officials to discuss how to better control the situation.

"I am more optimistic now on how we will manage in the future to ensure more efficiently the protection of civilians," Mr. Valdés said in an interview given in French. But he warned that the situation remains volatile, especially as the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has deployed only 40 per cent of its troop numbers so far.

Later this month, contingents from China and Pakistan are expected to bolster the international police force in Haiti, while military contingents from Morocco, Spain and Ecuador are scheduled to arrive by the middle of November.

Mr. Valdés said political reconciliation between the major forces, dialogue with the former military and the disarmament of armed gangs were essential if Haiti, already battered by dire poverty, instability and the deadly effects of Tropical Storm Jeanne last month, is to overcome its latest problems.

Last Thursday several police officers were killed during violent protests by supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Four leaders of his Fanmi Lavalas political party were arrested by police at the weekend.

Mr. Valdés stressed that MINUSTAH will do its utmost to establish constructive dialogue between the interim Government and the armed groups and to encourage economic opportunities across the country.

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