UN force in Haiti to target arms, drugs smuggling

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UNITED NATIONS, Oct 15 (Reuters) The Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti for another year today but reconfigured it to try to strengthen the country's borders against arms and drugs smuggling.

A unanimously passed resolution noted ''significant improvements'' in the security of the turbulent Caribbean state but said ''international illicit trafficking of drugs and arms continues to affect the stability of Haiti.'' UN troops and police were dispatched to Haiti in 2004 after a revolt that toppled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They have only recently brought relative calm to the poorest country in the Americas, rife with violent gangs, killings sparked by turf wars in teeming slums and a rash of kidnappings.

The resolution took up a recommendation by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Haiti in August, to reduce the number of troops by 140 to a maximum of 7,060, decreasing infantry and reorganizing the remainder.

Ban's August 22 report said soldiers should be taken from calmer areas and redeployed to establish patrols along the coast and Haiti's land border with the Dominican Republic.

The report said that, with its 2,560 km of unprotected coastline, unguarded seaports and numerous clandestine airstrips, Haiti was wide open for arms and drugs smugglers.

The police component of the UN force will be increased by 140, to a maximum of 2,091, to help Haitian police in urban areas, compensate for the shift of troops and help with border monitoring.

Ban's report said the Haitian National Police, ''despite marginal improvements ... remains unable to undertake crucial security tasks unaided.'' Today's resolution welcomed ''continuing achievements in Haiti's political process,'' including peaceful local elections in April, but said the situation ''continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security.'' The UN force, drawn from countries including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Canada, France and the United States, has suffered 31 deaths among troops, police and civilian staff.

REUTERS CS BST0030

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