Haiti needs more police than military, leader says

New York (dpa) - Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said Tuesday his troubled nation needs more police than military, and he promised that presidential elections would take place this year as planned.

Latortue met with the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York to discuss the renewal in late June of the mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in his country. The mission has 6,200 military and civilian personnel from 20 countries.

Latortue told reporters that Haiti, with a population of 8.5 million, would need a police force of up to 30,000. Currently, it has 4,000 police and a 7,000-strong army.

The Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeeping mission has been tasked to train police and the army as well as assist Port-au-Prince in organizing parliamentary and presidential elections in November.

"Elections and the transfer of power will take place,'' Latortue said in answer to questions whether insecurity would delay the democratic process.

Latortue, head of a transitional government, said he came to New York to inform the U.N. of the needs of Haitian people.

Annan told the council in a report that the U.N. peacekeeping mission has made "progress towards creating an environment in which the political transition can unfold.''

"This progress remains fragile, however, and key challenges lie ahead as the political transition enters a crucial phase,'' he said.

He said security remains volatile, with an increased number of violent acts by various illegal armed groups and kidnappings in Port-au-Prince. Outside the capital, security remained fragile, "but generally calm.''

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