Hillary seeks to give Haiti `post-quake boost`

US secretary of state is scheduled to meet outgoing President Rene Preval.

Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due in Haiti on Sunday to give a boost to the impoverished Caribbean nation struggling to rebuild from last year`s quake and decide its future leaders.

The chief US diplomat, who travelled to Port-au-Prince days after a devastating temblor killed 220,000 people over a year ago, was to meet outgoing President Rene Preval as well as candidates in the disputed November polls.

She will also visit a cholera clinic.

Not only has little been rebuilt in Haiti since the January 2010 quake; its people have seen a cholera epidemic claim more than 4,000 lives since October and suffered violence and uncertainty following Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.

Hillary will "consult with members of civil society, political actors, Haiti`s President and international partners on the ongoing electoral situation as well as reconstruction efforts," her spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Among those she will meet is Edmond Mulet, the special representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who urged the world not to abandon Haiti when the anniversary of the quake was marked just over two weeks ago.

"The United States and Haiti share the mutual commitment to building Haiti anew after the devastating earthquake one year ago, and to ensure a strong future for Haiti`s people and its democracy," Crowley said in a statement.

Haiti`s election commission has said it will announce definitive results from the election`s first round on Wednesday and has scheduled a long-delayed second round for March 20.

The final results of the second round will be announced on April 16, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said on Friday.

The announcement of preliminary first round results last month kicked off days of unrest when Preval`s handpicked candidate Jude Celestin narrowly edged a popular singer out of the second round run-off.

According to preliminary results from the November 28 poll, Celestin garnered 7,000 more votes than Michel Martelly, securing a place in the run-off.

Within hours of the announcement, protests swept Haitian towns, leaving five dead and the country in crisis as opposition candidates accused Preval and the electoral commission of rigging the poll.

A team of international monitors called in by Preval found widespread vote tampering and fraud in Celestin`s favour and recommended that he withdraw.

But earlier this week, the ruling party bowed to weeks of US-led pressure and widespread allegations of fraud, announcing that Celestin would not advance to the next round.

However, Celestin has yet to confirm his exit, and his spokesman said the CEP has not been officially notified.

Celestin`s exit would appear to leave the field open to Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and the clear winner of the first round, and Martelly, the popular singer widely known as "Sweet Micky”.

Haitians had hoped the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections would bring a new leadership that could rebuild the country.

The tense political standoff was thrown into further confusion earlier this month by the surprise return of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, a former strongman driven out by massive protests 25 years ago.

Bureau Report

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