UN chief proposes reduction in force in Haiti
United Nations: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended a 15 percent reduction in the number of UN troops in Haiti and an examination of whether the beleaguered peacekeeping operation remains the best way to support to the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The force has been under intense scrutiny for years and is widely blamed for a massive cholera outbreak likely introduced by a UN peacekeeping battalion from Nepal.
Protesters who oppose the mission have held running battles with authorities in the streets of Haiti and the country`s Senate has called for its removal.
Ban, in a report to the Security Council, said he intends to hold talks with the government of Haiti and other nations "to explore the best way for the United Nations to continue contributing towards greater stability and development in the country."
He said he will discuss the option of replacing the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSTAH, "with a smaller, more focused assistance mission by 2016" and include proposals on the way forward in his next report to the council in March 2014.
In the meantime, he recommended reducing MINUSTAH`s military strength from 6,270 to 5,021 by June 2014. The UN mission also has 2,601 international police, including 50 corrections officers, who are helping to train the Haitian police force and bring its strength to a minimum of 15,000 by 2016.
"While challenges remain, the progress made in the stabilisation of Haiti since MINUSTAH`s initial deployment in 2004 is considerable," Ban said.
But the secretary-general said MINUSTAH`s continued presence in Haiti has been increasingly called into question by political bodies and civil society groups.
On May 28, the Haitian Senate unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution calling for the progressive and orderly withdrawal of MINUSTAH by May 2014.
Last year, protesters calling for the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers clashed with police outside the earthquake-damaged Haitian National Palace in Port-au-Prince.
They said they were angry over the cholera epidemic and the alleged sexual assault of an 18-year-old Haitian man by UN peacekeepers from Uruguay.
Ban said both President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe have "expressed support for a phased withdrawal of the mission as the capacity of national institutions increased."
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