UN seeks 3500 reinforcements for Haiti

UN chief Ban Ki-moon requested Monday 3,500 extra troops and police to boost his battered mission in quake-hit Haiti amid scenes of lawlessness on the streets of the stricken capital.

Speaking to reporters after briefing the Security Council on his six-hour visit to the devastated Haitian capital Sunday, Ban said he had requested that the UN mission, known as MINUSTAH, be considerably beefed up.

"I recommended that the Security Council boost the number of troops by 2,000, nearly 33 per cent increase for six months," and that the number of UN police officers should rise by 1,500, or 67 per cent, he said.

Diplomats said the 15-member council would meet Tuesday morning to adopt a draft resolution to that effect proposed by the United States.

A copy of the text obtained by AFP endorsed Ban's reinforcement request and said, "MINUSTAH will consist of a military component of up to 8,940 troops of all ranks and of a police component of up to 3,711."

Araud said the Security Council would also have to examine MINUSTAH's mandate in the near future, "to see what is necessary to adjust it to the new situation."

He noted that Paris had proposed an international conference on rebuilding the Haitian economy, and said the talks should ideally be held in March after a preparatory meeting in Montreal scheduled for next Monday.

Alain Leroy, head of UN peacekeeping operations, said the extra troops would be used to build humanitarian corridors to link Port-au-Prince with the neighboring Dominican Republic and a northern Haitian port.

The Haitian capital's main port was heavily damaged in Tuesday's 7.0 quake and will require weeks if not months of repairs.

The extra MINUSTAH troops would also serve as a reserve force, "in case the security situation deteriorates, Leroy said.

Extra police would include forensic experts and prison officers, including more than 100 to deal with 4,000 detainees who escaped, Leroy said. Their mission would generally be to back up the Haitian police.

Leroy said the Dominican Republic had agreed to dispatch a battalion of 800 troops for arrival as early as this week and that other countries, notably from Latin America and the European Union, were considering offers.

He also addressed the sensitive issue of coordination between MINUSTAH and the some 10,000 troops being deployed by the United States.

Leroy said there was a "clear division of labor", with MINUSTAH in charge of general security in Haiti and the US troops there "to secure their huge humanitarian operation."

Susana Malcorra, head of the UN department of Field Support (logistics), stressed the need to open up alternative aid routes to the badly damaged and overrun Port-au-Prince airport, the main entry point for international aid.

The UN mission in Haiti has roughly 7,000 troops, 2,000 police and about 2,000 civilian personnel.

It has been deployed since mid-2004 to help stabilize the impoverished Caribbean island-nation of nine million people, where officials fear the final death toll for Haitians could soar above 100,000.

A quarter of a million more were injured and 1.5 million left homeless in the wake of Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude quake.

The disaster was also the worst ever in terms of fatalities for the UN and Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said 46 UN personnel were now confirmed dead and more than 500 missing or unaccounted for.

"The heartbreaking things I saw yesterday compel us to act swiftly and generously," Ban said.

The UN chief said he got a clear message from his encounter with Haitians who told him: "We need the United Nations. We need jobs. We need food and water.

He said the priority was to improve the coordination of the massive international relief effort and unclog the bottlenecks to make sure that the aid was reaching the people who needed it most.

Ban late Sunday flew back from Port-au-Prince with the remains of his special envoy to Haiti Hedi Annabi and his Brazilian deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa, both killed in the quake.

The UN boss made the morale-boosting visit to the Haitian capital to show solidarity with Haitian quake victims and shell-shocked local UN staff.  He visited the flattened MINUSTAH headquarters to praise the work of some 1,500 rescue workers battling to save as many lives as possible and to offer comfort to the staff.

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