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Haiti able to hold poll by year-end - Bill Clinton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Earthquake-devastated Haiti should be able to hold elections by the end of the year, U.N. envoy Bill Clinton said on Wednesday, as the impoverished Caribbean nation works to have a legitimate government in place to oversee its multibillion dollar reconstruction.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (R), a U.N. special representative for Haiti, speaks as Haitian President Rene Preval (L) listens during the International Donors' Conference meeting towards a "New Future for Haiti" at United Nations Headquarters, in New York, March 31, 2010. REUTERS/Chip East/Files

The former U.S. president said Haiti would need help to stage its presidential election and already-delayed legislative elections as it rebuilds after the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people and decimated the country’s economy and infrastructure.

Organizing new elections is set to be a major task, but they are crucial to put in place a new parliament that will be legally empowered to spend relief aid. International donors have pledged nearly $10 billion for Haiti’s reconstruction.

“They will be able to have them,” Clinton told Reuters in an interview to promote this weekend’s Clinton Global Initiative University in Miami, a philanthropic summit for students. “I expect that will be one of the things we don’t have to worry about.”

The World Bank, working with the Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nations, will supervise a multi-donor trust fund through which the billions of dollars in rebuilding funds will flow to the Haitian government.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Haiti to make holding elections a top priority to ensure the legitimacy and stability of the country’s government.

The earthquake destroyed the offices of the Electoral Council, members of the U.N. mission working with the commission were killed and election materials were buried. Many of Haiti’s government offices were also severely damaged in the earthquake, further slowing recovery efforts.

“You’ve got a massive transient population there, many of whom had a lot of their documents and identity proofs destroyed, so we need a little help putting the elections together, but we will get some experts in there,” Clinton said.

More than one million people were left homeless after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the capital Port-au-Prince, and aid groups are racing against a looming hurricane and rainy season to ensure they have adequate shelter.

Haitian President Rene Preval has said he would not seek to extend his term in office beyond its scheduled end on Feb. 11, 2011, and that he was confident legislative elections -- originally scheduled for Feb. 28 this year -- could be organized in time to ensure an orderly transition.

Ninety-eight of the 99 seats in the legislature’s Chamber of Deputies were to be at stake in the February election, along with one-third of the 30-member Senate. The vote for the remaining lower house seat had been set for a later date.

Presidential elections had been set for November, but it is unclear whether that will happen on schedule.

“Preval is particularly intent on having the capacity to hold the presidential elections. He thinks that’s the symbolic thing that proves that Haiti’s still committed to the path of democracy,” said Clinton.

“I have spent a lot of time with the parliamentary leaders ... and they feel the same way,” he said. “They want to see their country rebuilt, or built anew if you will, while strengthening democracy, not weakening it.”

Clinton, who also oversaw rebuilding in Indonesia, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Maldives after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, said Preval had already asked the United Nations for experts to advise Haiti on its elections.

Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Vicki Allen