US ambassador: US troops to stay in Haiti for time being

American troops will remain in Haiti for the foreseeable future to help the quake-ravaged country get back on its feet, the US ambassador to the Caribbean nation told AFP Thursday.

“There are about 6,500 soldiers in Haiti at the moment. There were some 20,000 for the emergency effort launched in the wake of January 12,” ambassador Kenneth Merten said.

“What is planned for the moment is more and more staff from USAID on the ground and fewer and fewer troops. Gradually, they’ll leave. In my opinion, we will need some American troops to stay here for the foreseeable future.”

But he dismissed any notion that Haiti would be put under some kind of foreign governorship, an idea mooted by French lawmaker Jacques Myard in the days after the January 12, 7.0-magnitude quake hit.

“I don’t see any reason for the country to be put under governorship. We have been working for a long time, since the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier, for a democratic nation in Haiti.”

He also dismissed talk of tensions between the United States and former colonial ruler France over the massive aid operation which has been put into place in a bid to help more than one million people left homeless by the quake.

Merten said he was “very, very satisfied with the cooperation that exists between all the nations.

“I think everyone knows that the needs are very serious. This is not the time to start talking about problems which are not really important.”

As for the kidnapping case in which 10 Americans were charged after trying to take a group of Haitian children out of the country, Merten said the “legal procedures had worked more or less as they are supposed to.

“We are obliged to ensure that an American national is being well treated according to the local laws, that he is not being abused and that he has a lawyer.”

Eight of the 10 Americans have been freed, while the two others were ordered held for additional questioning.

Published: Thursday February 25, 2010

Source: AFP

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