U.S. giving Haiti aid through military but no troops for U.N. security force.

The Pentagon is organizing a major humanitarian exercise in Haiti as a show of support for the embattled government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, but it is stopping short, for now, of offering troops for the U.N. peacekeeping force deployed there, officials say.

The exercise is part of the Department of Defense's New Horizon program, a civic assistance program to help train U.S. military units in construction and medical care services. It will start in mid-February and end in May.

The Haiti exercise will ''have a footprint of about 250 U.S. military personnel,'' said Raúl Duany, spokesman for the Southern Command. Besides Haiti, U.S. troops will carry out New Horizons exercises in Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the island nations Antigua and Dominica.

The Haiti portion is significant because of the deteriorating security situation there, as clashes between supporters and opponents of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have left more than 70 dead in recent weeks and because it is the first time such an effort will take place.

''We're showing the flag more and more,'' said a senior Defense Department official. ``It's important for the interim government to show that the U.S. is backing it, that it is on its side. We support them.''

Excluded by Aristide.

The Pentagon was prohibited from carrying out any kind of exercise in Haiti under Aristide, who was ousted in an armed revolt in February. U.S. troops were deployed to Haiti in 1994 to restore Aristide to power after a military coup, and again for four months this year to restore order after his ouster. U.N. peacekeepers replaced the U.S. troops.

Latortue has asked Washington to send U.S. troops back to Haiti, saying the U.N. peacekeepers have failed to maintain security. Brazil commands the 3,200 peacekeepers, a force still well short of the 8,000 approved by the U.N. Security Council for the nation of eight million.

Brazil argued for a larger force in Haiti at Thursday's start of a two-day summit in Rio de Janeiro that drew 13 Latin American leaders. But the presidents of Brazil and Peru offered no specifics in their opening statements.

''The nature of Haiti's problems requires us to adopt long-term solutions,'' Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo told the meeting. ``The Rio Group must assume long-term commitments, based not only on free elections but also to prevent the situation from repeating itself again.''

''Our solidarity is being tested by the Caribbean crisis in Haiti,'' said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Haiti also will be on the table for a meeting of hemispheric defense ministers in Ecuador on Nov. 17, which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is scheduled to attend.

Some U.S. analysts are urging a greater U.S. involvement.

''One would expect a greater U.S. presence,'' said Arturo Valenzuela, a former Clinton administration official on Latin America. ``It is very positive to have other countries involved, but the United States must be at the table.''

But the Bush administration is reluctant to send U.S. troops back to Haiti. ''We're not going to start second-guessing [the U.N.],'' the Pentagon official said, adding that ''sending U.S. folks there . . . would undermine'' the U.N. force.

No Requests.

The official said Washington would be willing to provide support for the U.N. force, if requested, although ``none is anticipated.''

The Pentagon plans to spend about $2 million and deploy the troops in several rotations in the Haiti exercise to build schools, water wells and establish temporary clinics that will provide medical, dental and veterinary services.

Most of the exercise will take place around the port city of Gonaives, hardest hit by flash floods and mudslides caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne that left more than 2,000 dead or missing and tens of thousands homeless.

[Source: The Miami Herald, Miami, Us, 05Nov04]

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