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Haiti rejects Dominican Republic troops-envoys

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Earthquake-ravaged Haiti turned down an offer of troops from the neighbouring Dominican Republic, forcing the United Nations to look elsewhere for additional peacekeepers, U.N. diplomats said on Wednesday.

A woman sits at a refugee camp after a 6.1 magnitude aftershock in Port-au-Prince January 20, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The Dominican Republic had offered an 800-strong battalion to form part of the reinforcement of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

“We understand the Haitian government has said no to them,” one Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity. He said he assumed the decision came from Haitian President Rene Preval.

The two states share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola but have a history of tense relations.

A U.N. official confirmed that Haiti turned down the offer but said the decision might not be definitive and talks were under way to see if Haiti would allow a rescue team or police from the Dominican Republic to help with the relief efforts.

“We’re hoping other countries can provide troops,” the official said.

The full potential strength of the U.N. peacekeeping force is now 12,651, up from the current level of around 9,000, after a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted on Tuesday.

The United Nations is now rushing to find the extra 3,651 troops and police to help maintain security and deliver aid.

Edmond Mulet, sent to Haiti to take over the U.N. force after its chief, Hedi Annabi, and dozens of other U.N. staff died in the earthquake, has said that Brazil was offering more troops and France and Chile were offering police.

U.N. officials have said the Philippines might also top up its existing contingent.

Haitian officials say the death toll from the Jan. 12 quake was likely to be between 100,000 and 200,000, and that 75,000 bodies had already been buried in mass graves.

The United States has around 12,000 military personnel in Haiti, on ships offshore or en route. They are not under U.N. command, though they are cooperating with the United Nations, which is overseeing the relief effort.

Editing by David Storey