PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Nine Latin American nations with U.N. peacekeepers deployed in Haiti voiced support for extending the mission for another year but declined to say when they would remove their troops.
The U.N. Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the 8,800-strong, Brazilian-led force on Oct. 14.
On Tuesday, defense ministers from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay traveled to Haiti to show their support for Haitian President Rene Preval, who last year authorized the U.N. force to take a firmer hand against street gangs blamed for violence.
Chilean Defense Minister Jose Goni said the countries agreed to support a 12-month extension of the U.N. mission, which arrived in 2004 to restore order after a violent uprising ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
“Our work (in the U.N. mission) has helped achieve a notable level of public security and that allows to begin thinking about ways to expand our work,” Goni told reporters after meeting privately with Preval and his Cabinet.
The officials did not address how long their troops would remain in Haiti. U.N. officials have said peacekeepers should stay at least until the end of Preval’s term in 2011.
It was the first time Latin American countries have gathered in Haiti to discuss the future of the peacekeeping force, which consists mostly of South and Central American soldiers and police.
The force’s current mandate covers mainly Haiti’s security needs, but Preval’s government has been pressuring the world body to funnel more resources into urgently needed development projects for new schools, hospitals, roads and sanitation and clean water.