WORLD

Breaking a deadlock

HAITI

LUKE FISHER March 11 1996
WORLD

Breaking a deadlock

HAITI

LUKE FISHER March 11 1996

Breaking a deadlock

HAITI

It was supposed to be a day of celebrating

a mission accomplished. American soldiers had a deadline to be out of Haiti by midnight Thursday, Feb. 29, a year and a

half after landing 20,000 troops in the troubled Caribbean nation. Canadian Brig.-Gen. Pierre Daigle was in Port-au-Prince, ready to take up command of a revised UN mission that was to extend the international mandate by six months to help newly installed President René Préval get his house in order. But as

Wednesday rolled into Thursday, there was still no approval from the UN Security Council—deadlocked due to delaying tactics by China.

At a high-gloss reception in Port-auPrince, UN Special Representative to Haiti Lakhdar Brahimi handed out thank-you plaques with a brave face as frantic diplomacy continued in Washington, Ottawa and Paris. Thursday’s parade and handover ceremonies were abruptly cancelled. “We don’t know whether to be taking down tents or putting new ones up for our troops,” said Capt. Geneviève Proulx, a public af-

fairs officer at Canada’s main base in the capital. Finally, only hours before the UN mandate expired, the Security Council reached agreement, thanks to a bold—and potentially expensive—stroke by Canada.

The crux of the deal was Ottawa’s offer to supplement a 1,200-strong UN force with 700 soldiers at its own expense. That met the ostensible objections of China, which had threatened to use its Security Council veto to block the extension. Beijing had insisted that any additional UN commitment be shortened from six months to four, which it was, and that the size of the force be reduced from the original 1,900, the minimum recommended by a special UN committee. The previous year-long mandate was for 6,000 troops.

Publicly, Chinese officials said that they were motivated by concern over the Haiti mission’s cost to the UN. But diplomats noted that the real sticking point was the renegade island of Taiwan—with which Haiti maintains

Canada goes it alone by paying for its own UN peacekeeping force

official relations. Beijing has moved aggressively to isolate Taiwan in international forums and was outraged when the island’s vice-president attended Préval’s swearing-in. The imbroglio also gave China a chance to make trouble for the United States, which angered Beijing by allowing Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui to make a private visit last year. “The Chinese are holding us all hostage,” said a senior diplomat in Port-au-Prince.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy

said Canada is committed to restoring order to Haiti, but was forced to either pay for the troops or withdraw from the operation entirely. He told Maclean’s: “We wouldn’t want to take on a mission unless we felt that we could fully meet the test.”

On Friday, U.S. Commander Maj.Gen. Joseph Kinzer finally held an infor-

mal handing off

with Daigle. The Americans, whose

numbers had dwindled to about 1,700 last week, will be replaced by 700 Canadian troops, primarily from the Royal 22nd Regiment based in Valcartier, Que., but including

some from Gagetown, N.B., and Edmonton. The UN force will come mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh. In addition, Canada will maintain a contingent of 100 police officers, mainly RCMP, to train Haiti’s new police force. Five hundred Canadian soldiers already on the island will be withdrawn during March.

Defence Minister David Collenette said he would provide financial details of the operation this week. But with the cost of the mission well into the millions, Reform party foreign affairs critic Bob Mills questioned whether the government had assumed more than its share of international responsibility. Responded Axworthy: “What we gain in terms of the evolution of good developments in Haiti is well worth the price.” Canadians will find out over the next four months.

LUKE FISHER

NOMI MORRIS