January 18, 2010 / 3:34 PM / 10 years ago

U.N.'s Ban asks council for extra Haiti peacekeepers

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon asked the Security Council on Monday to approve 3,500 more peacekeepers for Haiti — a nearly 40 percent increase — to help cope with the chaos that followed last week’s earthquake.

A looter holds a knife as he fights for products in Port-au-Prince, January 16, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Diplomats said they expected a vote in the 15-nation council on Tuesday to authorize the temporary boost for the U.N. mission, known as MINUSTAH. A draft resolution circulated by the United States said the request would be met in full.

“The members of the council expressed their support to the proposal of the secretary-general to increase the overall level of MINUSTAH to support the immediate recovery and stability efforts,” Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, this month’s council president, told reporters.

“The members of the council are working very hard on the rapid response to the proposal.”

Ban, speaking to reporters after addressing the closed-door council session on a six-hour trip he made to Haiti on Sunday, said the reinforcement of the peacekeepers with 2,000 more troops and 1,500 more police would last for six months.

Media reports have said the U.N. blue-helmets are struggling to keep order and deliver aid after the January 12 quake wrecked the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and killed as many as 200,000 people.

“The heartbreaking scenes I saw yesterday compel us to act swiftly and generously today and over the longer term,” Ban said. He earlier told the council that difficulties in delivering aid could cause security to deteriorate.

BRAZIL, EU MAY CONTRIBUTE

The number of peacekeepers in Haiti currently stands at just over 9,000. Ban’s proposal would take the strength to more than 12,500 — up to 8,940 troops and 3,711 police.

The draft resolution, seen by Reuters, endorses those figures and says the council recognizes “the dire circumstances and urgent need for a response.”

Diplomats said the delay in the vote until Tuesday was to allow governments of council members to review the text overnight.

Ban’s 3,500 request was considerably more than the 1,250 extra peacekeepers U.N. officials had been speaking about on Sunday, suggesting that the challenge was now considered greater than ever.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told reporters the Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti, had promised a battalion of 800 troops, which would be used to protect a “humanitarian corridor” from the Dominican Republic to Port-au-Prince.

France’s U.N. ambassador Gerard Araud said the European Union was considering contributing some police and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Brazil, which commands MINUSTAH, was ready to increase its troop level. It was unclear how quickly the additional forces might be deployed.

Among buildings destroyed in the quake was the U.N. headquarters in Port-au-Prince.

Spokesman Martin Nesirky said the confirmed U.N. death toll from the quake currently stood at 46 and that more than 500 U.N. employees were unaccounted for.

U.N. officials say all but about 40 of those unaccounted for are local staff, many of whom may have survived but have not been contacted. Ban told reporters the quake represented “the single biggest loss in the history of this organization.”

Editing by Claudia Parsons

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