July 8, 2009 / 11:56 PM / 8 years ago

Bill Clinton says surprised by discord in Haiti

<p>Former U.S. president Bill Clinton (C) stands with Haitian workers as he poses for a photograph in a recycling factory known as "Sant Triyaj Fatra Kafoufey" in Port-au-Prince July 7, 2009. .Eduardo Munoz</p>

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said on Wednesday a lack of cooperation between Haitian politicians, aid groups and business leaders was hurting efforts to help the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Clinton, on his first visit since being named U.N. special envoy to Haiti, said he was optimistic about its future but surprised by the continuing divide between the private and public sectors and the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Haiti.

"The most surprising thing to me ... is how little the investor community, all the elements of the government, including the legislative branch and the NGO community seem to have taught and absorbed each others' lessons," Clinton told reporters at the end of a two-day fact-finding mission.

The poorest country in the Americas, Haiti has struggled to establish democratic institutions and a stable investment climate following decades of dictatorship and military rule. Most of its 9 million people live on less than $2 a day.

<p>Former U.S. president Bill Clinton (R) looks at a piece of coal made from garbage in a recycling factory known as "Sant Triyaj Fatra Kafoufey" in Port-au-Prince July 7, 2009.Eduardo Munoz</p>

But the appointment of Clinton by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in May, hundreds of millions of dollars in recent donor pledges and the granting of $1.2 billion in debt relief by the World Bank, IMF and other creditors this month has raised hopes in Haiti.

The Paris Club of sovereign creditors said on Wednesday it had decided to cancel $62.73 million of Haiti's debt and committed to canceling an additional $152 million.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Clinton met on Wednesday with business leaders, heads of the executive and legislative branches of the government and NGOs and civil society groups, after a tour on Tuesday of the mud-stained city of Gonaives, where floods last year killed hundreds of people.

He promised to do all he can to collect the money Haiti needs to address some of its crucial infrastructure, education and healthcare problems but urged Haitians to solve their internal differences.

"If it is a question of money that's my problem, but if it is not about money, that's something Haitians need to resolve among themselves," he said. "That's a little surprising to me. But everybody is eager to do it."

Editing by Jim Loney and Eric Walsh

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