UNITED NATIONS – Haiti asked the U.N. on Wednesday to delay a plan that would nearly cut in half its peacekeeping force there, just as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is poised to enter a tense election period.
Ambassador Denis Regis warned the U.N. Security Council that the withdrawal, which begins this month, will jeopardize the country's security situation. President Michel Martelly made the same plea in a letter to the U.N. this month.
"We all understand what's at stake here," Regis told the council. "We must avoid any premature disengagement."
Under pressure from the United States and the Security Council, which visited the country in January, Haiti this month scheduled its presidential election for October and set an August date for long-delayed legislative elections that have been a source of growing political friction.
Haiti's leaders would like the U.N. peacekeeping reduction to wait until the elections are over.
The current plan says the number of multinational troops in Haiti will drop to 2,370 from 5,021 by June.
The United States supported the reduction Wednesday, while other permanent council members said Haiti's national police will be able to help ensure calm during the elections.
"Ultimately the responsibility for ensuring (the elections') success lies with Haitians," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said.
But more than a dozen countries lined up against the cuts, including Canada, New Zealand and number of Latin American countries.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the island country of 10 million people was established in 2004 after the ouster of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.