UN to cut Haiti peacekeeping force

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The UN Security Council on Friday ordered a cut in the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti and demanded strict enforcement of a 'zero tolerance' policy on sexual abuse after a rape case involving Uruguayan troops.

The reduction to about 10,500 soldiers and police will be carried out in the next 12 month mandate which was unanimously approved by the 15-nation council.

The United Nations believes numbers can be cut because of the improved political situation in the impoverished Caribbean state since a new president and prime minister took office.

The mission, officially known as MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) will now be allowed 7,340 troops and 3,241 police, about 1,600 fewer soldiers and 1,700 less police. The figure would be 3,300 down on the current upper limit for the force but only 2,700 down on the current numbers in Haiti.

The military forces in Haiti will concentrate on engineering duties, helping the clear-up after the January 2010 earthquake which killed more than 200,000 people.

With the number of UN peacekeepers on duty around the world now at a record 120,000, new peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Thursday the department would have to look to make reductions. Ivory Coast, Liberia and East Timor could also see cuts in UN deployments.

The Haiti operation was hit by a scandal this year over a group of Uruguayan troops alleged to have raped a Haitian youth. The Security Council resolution commended the mission's efforts and paid tribute to UN staff who died in the Haiti quake.

But it also called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon 'to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance of all MINUSTAH personnel with the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse'.

It also said that countries contributing troops must 'ensure that acts involving their personnel are properly investigated and punished'.

Five Uruguayan troops have been jailed by a military court on charges of disobeying orders and dereliction of duty, and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica has apologized to Haiti for the 'outrage'.

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