UN admits Haiti force is not up to the job it faces

Jean-Marie Guehenno, the under-secretary general for peacekeeping, on Thursday told the UN Security Council in New York that forces in Haiti were not trained for carrying out raids and targeting criminal gangs. "The forces we have do not have the kind of very specialised capacity ... that makes absolutely sure that there will be zero civilian casualties in a densely populated environment," he said.

His admission came amid allegations that up to 23 unarmed civilians, including children, were killed by UN earlier this month in the Cite Soleil slum in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. On Thursday it was announced that an additional 750 troops from Jordan - the same nationality as many of those involved in the 6 July raid - are to be dispatched to Haiti. There has been no word yet on Mr Guehenno's request for specialist troops.

The UN has been stepping up raids in recent weeks to try to clamp down on violence ahead of elections scheduled for the autumn. The authorities say the violence is being perpetrated mostly by criminal gangs with links to the ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But Mr Aristide's supporters - and a number of human rights groups - say members of his Lavalas party have been repressed by the interim US-backed government and the Haitian National Police. Some observers say preparations for the elections are little short of chaotic.

Police last week arrested a Catholic priest who some believe could be the successor to Mr Aristide. Gerard Jean-Juste was charged over the murder of a journalist, something he has adamantly denied. He remains in solitary confinement in the main prison in Port-au-Prince.

This week Amnesty International said the presence of the UN peacekeepers had done little to curb widespread rights abuses and political violence and that the human rights crisis could worsen as the elections approach. Other groups have said there is evidence that the UN forces have been complicit in some of the abuses carried out by the police and may have been themselves responsible for some of the abuses.

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