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Posted Monday, January 29, 2007
Disagreement at UN over how long to extend Haiti Mission
By The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 29, 2007 (AP)--The U.N. Security Council is likely to extend the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, but there are disagreements over how long its new term should last, officials said Monday.

In a report last month, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended the mission be extended for one year after its mandate expires Feb. 15.

At a meeting Monday, Security Council members supported continuing the mission but did not have "unanimity yet on the terms of the extension," said Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

"The secretary-general, as you know, asked for a 12-month extension, but there are some views which are different," he told reporters.

Churkin declined to say which countries raised the objections.

Last year, the Security Council extended the mission by only six months. Diplomats in Haiti have said China pushed for the shorter mandate because of Haiti's support for Taiwan's bid to join the United Nations. Haiti is one of a handful of countries that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which Beijing says is part of China. The two countries split amid civil in 1949.

Peacekeepers arrived in the Haiti in July 2004 to quell unrest sparked by an uprising that ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The 8,800-strong force - which includes about 125 Chinese police officers - has recently stepped up offensives to root out armed gangs blamed for a wave of killings and kidnappings.

Diplomats in Haiti, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, have said China recently threatened to use its veto power on the Security Council to end the peacekeeping mission because of Haiti's support for Taiwan.

At the council meeting Monday, however, "there was no threat to veto," said Alejandro Wolff, acting U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations.

He said the council was still discussing the size of the force, along with the length of its mandate.

China's U.N. mission did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Edmond Mulet, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, said the situation in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country has improved since the peacekeeping mission began, citing presidential, legislative and municipal elections.

"If you take a picture of Haiti today, you will see it's quite a worrisome picture," Mulet told reporters after briefing the Security Council. But "there's been a very positive evolution" since the start of the mission.

Mulet said peacekeeping troops "receive fire every day" and are often blamed when civilians are caught in crossfire or shot by gang members.

Last week, U.N. troops traded gunfire with armed gangs after seizing an abandoned primary school that had been used to stage attacks on the peacekeepers. Residents in the slum of Cite Soleil said one man died and five others were wounded, including a young woman shot in the leg and chest.

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