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U.N. to authorize 3,500 additional troops and police for Haiti

U.N. to authorize 3,500 additional troops and police for Haiti

UPDATE: The 15-nation security council just voted unanimously to authorize the dispatch of U.N. peacekeeping reinforcements.

The U.N. Security Council is poised Tuesday to authorize the dispatch of 3,500 additional troops and police to reinforce the beleaguered mission in Haiti as it strains to restore order and protect relief convoys in Port-au-Prince.

The resolution — which was drafted by the United States — will raise the U.N. troop level to more than 12,500 troops. Those forces will be joined by thousands of U.S. troops. But it remains unclear how rapidly the U.N., which often takes months to deploy peacekeepers, can get its new boots on the ground.

The U.N. peacekeeping chief, Alain Le Roy, said that the Dominican Republic has promised to send a battalion of nearly 800 troops to neighboring Haiti. Other countries are weighing participating in the operation, he said.

The pledged increase comes amid fears that a breakdown in security would overwhelm the ability of the Haitian police to maintain law and order in Port-au-Prince. European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels Monday to discuss sending about 1,000 of their police to Haiti.

The 15-nation council has already signaled its willingness to approve the force increase, which was first proposed on Monday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. But U.N. council members sought to dismiss the notion that the West was seeking to run Haiti’s affairs. "Haiti is a sovereign state," said France’s U.N. ambassador Gerard Araud. "There will not be a trusteeship in Haiti."

Still, France supports the strengthening of the U.N.’s mandate so that international peacekeepers can take on greater responsibilities in responding to the disaster.

But the United States, which is building its own military presence in Haiti, was cool to the idea. Alejandro D. Wolff, the second-highest ranking U.S. diplomat based at the United Nations, said there is "no deficiency" in the mandate and that "we should focus on what we need to do under the current mandate."

Asked if the U.S. would participate in the U.N. peacekeeping mission, Wolff said: "If there are opportunities for us to contribute in a way that facilitates MINUSTAH’s [the U.N. mission in Haiti] role, we are obviously prepared to consider those. As you know, we already have liaison units on the ground and we are prepared to second personnel if needed. Time will tell whether those are required. You know, we have a large presence there already. We are in close coordination and cooperation with the U.N. and with the government of Haiti. We are doing our role."