UN Council approves withdrawal of some Haiti troops

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The UN Security Council on Friday agreed to withdraw nearly 3,000 blue-helmeted troops and police, bringing the unpopular force's size close to where it was before a devastating earthquake in January 2010.

The 15-nation council unanimously approved a resolution that called for the withdrawal in response to an improved security situation in the Caribbean country, the poorest in the Americas.

The plan is to withdraw 2,750 U.N. peacekeepers from the force, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti or MINUSTAH, according to the resolution passed by the council. That reduction brings the force's size to just under 10,600 troops and police.

Many Haitians have called for the complete withdrawal of the force due to allegations that Nepalese U.N. troops brought a deadly cholera epidemic to the country after their camp latrines contaminated a river. This sparked riots last year.

Last month, the U.N. force faced renewed public protests over allegations that a group of Uruguayan troops raped a man.

MINUSTAH was established by the Security Council in 2004 and has been helping Haiti's short-staffed and ill-equipped police maintain security, especially during elections plagued by fraud and unrest. The size of the force was increased after last year's earthquake.

Despite the improvement in the security situation, the council's resolution voiced "concern that trends since the earthquake reveal an increase in all major categories of crime, including murder, rape and kidnapping in (the capital) Port-au-Prince and the West Department."

But the council said Haiti 'has made considerable strides' since the earthquake. "For the first time in its history, Haiti has experienced a peaceful transfer of power between one democratically elected president and another from the opposition," it said.

The U.N. Development Program said on Wednesday that workers have removed about half of the twisted piles of concrete, steel and other debris that have clogged Haiti's capital and surrounding areas since the earthquake.

Haiti still faces a massive reconstruction effort following the January 12, 2010 quake, which killed more than 300,000 people and caused massive damage across the nation.

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