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UN Special Envoy Hails Success of Haiti Election
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UN special envoy Juan Gabriel Valdes told Xinhua on Thursday that he was very happy with the Haitian presidential and legislative elections, saying they have brought hope to the strife-torn Caribbean island state.

"The massive participation in the elections feeds optimism for Haiti's future. The international community had been pessimistic about Haiti's electoral process, and Haiti's own people gave the lie to their worries, showing that the country had the capacity to rebuild the nation," he said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

According to Valdes, security did not prove to be a serious problem, and all that Haiti's police and the security forces of the UN's Minustah (Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti) had to do was stay alert.

"We have good elections and we need a vote count to give trustworthy results that will give trustworthy and acceptable results to all political actors in Haiti," he said.

The result of the election was not expected before Friday.

"It is now the time for politicians and leaders in the country to act together to set the national reconciliation process in motion in order to establish governance in this country," he added.

The UN special envoy vowed to promote dialogue between the winners and the losers to build national unity, and called on the incoming government to give priority to Haiti's depressed economy.

He also urged the private sector to join in the process of rebuilding the nation.

The World Bank is due to hold a donor meeting in Haiti on Jan. 21 to decide how to extend new support to the state, while the Organization of American States has asked rival Haitian political groups to work together to reach an agreement on peaceful co-existence, Valdes said.

The UN special envoy said he was currently dissatisfied with the support to Haiti from donor countries, adding that the new president would have to exert greater pressure on donors to fulfill their pledges worth US$1.2 billion. At present they have only delivered US$400 million.

With respect to Minustah's mission, Valdes said Haiti needed a competent police force with many more officers than the current 5,000, who are too few to keep order and maintain a safe society.

He said the UN Security Council would meet next week to decide how long Minustah would stay. At present it only has permission for a six-month extension.

The United Nations is soon to negotiate with the new government to fix the parameters for the extension of the peacekeepers.

"In my opinion, Minustah should stay another four or five years to train Haiti's police and establish a legal system here," he said.

Valdes thanked China for its active involvement in peacekeeping operations in Haiti, saying Chinese peacekeepers had made a great contribution to the success of Tuesday's elections.

The Chinese peacekeepers did an excellent job which is appreciated by all the Latin American people, including Haitians, he said.

Haitian voters went to the polling stations for the first time this week since February 2004, when former president Jean Bertrand Aristide resigned and fled Haiti amid chaos and insurgency.

Voting has been largely peaceful despite reports that four people were killed and 20 others injured in election-related incidents on Tuesday, before calm was restored the following day.

The elections, which had been postponed four times, were observed by the United Nations, the European Union, the US National Institute for Democracy and the International Organization of Francophones.

Opinion polls gave former president Rene Garcia Preval a substantial lead.

The elections were staged to select a new president, 30 senators and 99 deputies. To win outright, a presidential candidate has to take more than 50 percent of the votes.

(Xinhua News Agency February 10, 2006)

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