Clinton Plays Down Haiti Aid Controversy

MONTREAL — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday sought to address concerns over the US role in supervising Haiti relief efforts after a devastating earthquake.

MONTREAL — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday sought to address concerns over the US role in supervising Haiti relief efforts after a devastating earthquake.

"The international community must ensure we are working in sync. Aid coordination has long been a challenge in Haiti, even before the earthquake," Clinton said at a donors' meeting in Montreal.

"We must find better mechanisms for coordination, oversight, and accountability to ensure that aid and investments are used effectively."



Washington has taken a frontline role in the disaster relief effort since the January 12 quake, sending in 20,000 troops as well as rescue teams and anchoring a hospital ship offshore to treat injured Haitians.

On Sunday, Italy's top disaster official Guido Bertolaso criticized the lack of a coordinated international aid effort in Haiti, saying that the United States had "too many officers" there and could not find a capable leader.

Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Franco Frattini, who briefly met with Clinton in Washington ahead of the Montreal meeting, sought to soothe tensions by recognizing US efforts at Monday's talks.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also alluded to criticisms, saying North American nations "know the conditions on the ground, maybe better than others who have the best intentions, but are seeing things from farther away."

Clinton responded by calling on all donor nations to evaluate the progress of relief efforts honestly and to have the courage to change strategies in Haiti if necessary.

Clinton also repeated an earlier promise that the United States would not abandon Haiti and will remain its long-term partner.

She urged conference delegates to begin thinking now about the transition from disaster relief to long-term investment in Haiti, and preserve the current grouping of donor nations.

Clinton said in Washington earlier after meeting with Frattini that the international effort "could not succeed without additional military assets."

"It's just easier for the United States to get there first because Haiti is our neighbor," she said.

Leading medical journal The Lancet last week accused major aid organisations of corporate preening and self-interest that had contributed to bedlam in the effort to help Haiti.

Left-leaning Venezuela and Bolivia have criticized the United States for its response to the quake, accusing US forces of occupying the country rather than helping its people.

The disaster killed around 150,000 people and left a million others homeless, according to Haitian officials.

Source: AFP