UN’s Ban, Bill Clinton urge Haiti to seek recovery

PORT-AU-PRINCE, (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General  Ban Ki-moon and former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited  Haiti yesterday and urged the Caribbean state to use  international backing to haul itself out of grinding poverty.

Ban and Clinton are on a mission to promote an anti-poverty  action plan for the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Speaking to students at an educational center, the U.N.  chief said Haiti had a “window of opportunity” because of the  presence of a U.N. peacekeeping mission on its soil and because  of the country’s tariff-free access to the U.S. market.

“This window of opportunity is not unlimited. It is very  limited. You must seize this opportunity,” said Ban, who was  due to meet later with President Rene Preval.

“That is why President Clinton and I are here personally to  first of all demonstrate our solidarity and send a very strong  message to the international community that we need Haiti to be  able to emerge as a very stable, democratic and prosperous  country in the region,” he added.

The United Nations has some 9,000 peacekeepers in Haiti,  which has long been afflicted by political instability and  violence and was heavily damaged by hurricanes last year.

U.N. officials say the anti-poverty plan focuses on job  creation, food security, reforestation of the almost treeless  country and provision of basic services such as healthcare.

Clinton told the students that 200 years ago Haiti had been  the richest part of the region because of its natural  resources. “You can be again because of the resources in your  mind and your heart,” he said.

Clinton and Ban were visiting just over a month before  Senate elections in Haiti, already controversial after the  nation’s biggest party, The Lavalas Family Party associated  with exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was barred  on a technicality.

As they visited, several thousand supporters of the Lavalas  Family Party staged a demonstration to protest against its  barring from the Senate polls and to demand that U.S. President  Barack Obama arrange Aristide’s return to Haiti.

They waved banners which read “Ask Obama to return  Aristide” and “There can be no election without Lavalas,” but  there were no serious incidents.

Aides to Ban said he had been encouraged to visit Haiti by  a report he had received from Paul Collier, an academic at  Britain’s Oxford University.

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