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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet pledges support for Haiti

AP

Sunday, June 11, 2006    

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Chilean President Michelle Bachelet visited sick children at a poorly equipped hospital yesterday and pledged continued support for Haiti's health care, education and housing.

Bachelet arrived late Friday on a one-day visit to evaluate Chilean-assisted security and development efforts in the deeply impoverished Caribbean nation, which is slowly recovering from a crippling February 2004 revolt.

Amid heavy security by UN troops, Bachelet visited the children's ward of the University Hospital in Port-au-Prince, where she met with doctors and donated a heart monitor and a supply of anaesthesia.

"We know your needs are much greater," Bachelet told workers at the public hospital, which sorely lacks equipment and medicine.

She pledged Chile and its international partners would "continue offering support so that every Haitian has a better chance to have health care, education and housing."

Bachelet met Friday night with Haitian President Rene Preval, whom she congratulated on his February electoral victory and the installation of a new Cabinet.

Preval thanked Bachelet for Chile's involvement in a Brazil-led UN peacekeeping force sent to restore order after the revolt toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and threw the nation into chaos.

Chile's Senate last month authorised a six-month extension of the country's more than 600 army and police troops in the UN force.

Bachelet, the first head of state to visit Haiti since Preval took power last month, said she would discuss with Preval the possibility of keeping Chilean forces in the country longer if needed, saying a stable Haiti was vital to regional security.

"Latin America and the Caribbean share many of the same challenges and dilemmas, and we have to work together to find solutions," she said. "This shows that when there are important tasks, that we're capable of uniting for a common cause."

Bachelet was later scheduled to visit a contingent of Chilean peacekeepers in Haiti's north before travelling to the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

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