Myers Praises Interim Force for Haitian Progress
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 14, 2004 The arrival of the Marines here on the same day that Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned as Haiti's president prevented many Haitian deaths here, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti said here March 13.
James B. Foley met with Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers at the Toussaint L'Overture Airport here. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff finished a five-day trip to Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile with a stop in Haiti.
Myers met with Marines, sailors and airmen. He also met with U.S., French, Chilean and Canadian commanders. During a press conference, Myers thanked the partners. He said the Multinational Interim Force is establishing the conditions for a follow-on force. The United States leads the U.N.-authorized interim force. It is authorized for 90 days.
Myers also expressed his "tremendous appreciation for the U.S. troops that are serving here. The United States of America has called upon their service to help the people of this country and they are serving extremely well."
Myers said the force has helped bring stability to Port-au-Prince. Embassy officials said the force's presence probably prevented a coup. As it is, the political process is uninterrupted. The constitutional successor to Aristide the chief justice of Haiti's Supreme Court took office after Aristide resigned, a new prime minister has been chosen and the political process will continue.
Embassy officials said disarming the factions remains a problem, but that the multinational force has begun the process. Embassy officials estimate there are thousands of automatic weapons in Haiti.
It is important to remember that the multinational force has been in Haiti for only a week, Myers said. The conditions that brought about the need for the multinational force will not go without a lot of work, and the Haitians must help, he said. Myers had a message for those Haitians who wish to prolong the chaos in Haiti. "The Multinational Interim Force will not tolerate violence against the multinational force, nor violence against Haitian civilians," Myers said. "If there is to be hope on this island, there has to be peace and stability. Those who are planning more violence are going to be dealt with accordingly."
While Myers visited Haiti, an Antonov transport plane landed, carrying Canadian forces and their equipment. Chilean forces escorted Mary Jo Myers, the chairman's wife. French gendarmes patrolled with the Haitian National Police. Other nations, such as Argentina and Brazil, have sent humanitarian supplies to Haiti.
A United Nations assessment team is in Port-au-Prince to judge how large a follow-on force will be needed. Many countries in the hemisphere have said they would help in a U.N. peacekeeping operation in Haiti. Myers said he does not know how large a follow-on force in Haiti would be, but he said it probably would be a mix of military and police personnel.
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