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Peacekeepers Protect Haiti Vote Center
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Chinese peacekeepers in Haiti are being deployed to safeguard a smooth vote count after a chaotic but mostly peaceful presidential election.


The vote, which ended on Tuesday night local time, is the first election in the unstable Caribbean nation of 8.3 million since its former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted two years ago.


UN troops with helicopters, trucks and mules have hauled ballots from remote voting stations across the country to the voting center in the capital Port-au-Prince that is being guarded by the Chinese peacekeepers.


Zhang Jin, information officer with the Chinese team in Haiti, described the task as the "most important and difficult one Chinese peacekeepers have ever shouldered."


"We're honored to be given the task of safeguarding the voting center, but we also realize the possible risk," he told China Daily yesterday in an online interview.


The center is near the campsite of the Chinese team, but also adjacent to the gang-controlled Cite Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince.


Mass confusion and tension at some voting stations due to late poll openings and irregularities, which led to at least four deaths on election day, have heightened concerns.


Zhang said the Chinese team is making unswerving efforts to accomplish the task.


Crouching behind machine guns and patrolling alongside armored vehicles, 125 Chinese officers, including eight women, are on garrison duty at nine sentry posts near the voting center.


Each of them has to work for at least 10 hours a day to give the center comprehensive 24-hour protection.



Zhang said more than 50,000 meters of wire and 1,000 bags of stones and sand were used to install barbed wire entanglements and erect fortifications at sections where potential problems were feared.


As part of the 9,000-strong UN peacekeeping forces in Haiti, the current Chinese team arrived in the country last December for an eight-month tour of duty. All members are from east China's Shandong Province.


To get a better understanding of the country, the team has closely studied UN information reports on Haiti and subscribed to local newspapers.


"We need all the information to draft emergency plans for anything unexpected," Zhang told China Daily.


(China Daily February 11, 2006)

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