Haiti to seek a foreign armed force to combat gangs, decree says

Oct 7 (Reuters) - Haiti's government has authorized Prime Minister Ariel Henry to ask the international community for a "specialized armed force" to address a crisis caused by a blockade of the country's main fuel port that has led to crippling shortages, according to a decree circulating on Friday.

Haiti has ground to a halt since a coalition of gangs blocked the Varreux fuel terminal last month. The lack of gas and diesel has crippled transportation and forced businesses and hospitals to halt operations.

It has also led to a shortage of bottled water, just as the country confirmed a new outbreak of cholera, the spread of which is controlled through hygiene and clean water.

The decree allows Henry to "solicit and obtain from Haiti's international partners effective support through immediate deployment of a specialized armed force to stop ... the insecurity resulting from the joint actions of armed gangs and their sponsors."

It was not immediately evident which nations would receive such a request.

The United Nations has not received an official request from the Haitian government, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday.

"That being said, we remain extremely concerned about the security situation in Haiti, the impact it's having on the Haitian people, on our ability to do our work, especially in the humanitarian sphere," Dujarric told reporters.

The U.S. State Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday tweeted that the United States remains "committed to helping Haiti restore security and democratic order."

Canada's foreign ministry on Friday said that 19 member countries of the Organization of American States, which is meeting in Peru, jointly affirmed solidarity with Haiti.

The statement said those countries were committed to helping Haitians "overcome the complex security challenges facing the country."

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Miami, additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York, Humeyra Pamuk in Lima, Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Alistair Bell

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