U.N. Plans to Increase Security in Haiti

The United Nations intends to step up security in Haiti in an effort to crack down on gangs that are "kidnapping and terrorizing ordinary people," the U.N. chief in Haiti said Monday.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to review within a week a request for strengthening Haiti's national police force with better-qualified personnel, expert security advisers and equipment to stem a surge in abductions and lawlessness.

If approved, the U.N. will begin securing the capital to help the government and humanitarian groups do their work, said Larry Rossin, the U.N.'s acting leader in Haiti. He did not provide further details of what the stepped-up security would entail.

Haiti experienced relative calm after President Rene Preval's February election. Since May, however, dozens of foreigners and Haitians have been kidnapped and gang fighting has forced hundreds to flee their homes in the capital of Port-au-Prince.

"In Port-au-Prince, we have seen a significant deterioration in the security situation," Rossin told The Associated Press. "This is ... criminal activity taking place by these gangs who are kidnapping and terrorizing ordinary people."

"We are working very closely with the president and the prime minister to come up with a policy and to use our forces to help," he added. "We are looking forward to getting this under control."

An 8,800-strong force of U.N. troops and international police provides the only real security in a country plagued with well-armed gangs and a local police force that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan describes as "inadequately trained" and "infiltrated by criminal elements."

The peacekeepers were dispatched to Haiti to help restore order following the 2004 revolt that toppled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, now exiled in South Africa.

U.N. officials have said the latest crime wave may be an attempt to destabilize the country and pressure Preval into allowing Aristide to return. Preval has said he does not believe the violence is politically motivated.