US turns up pressure on Haiti leaders

The United States warned Haiti its foreign aid is being imperiled by political stalemate following disputed elections, spelling more trouble for a nation struggling to recover from a huge earthquake and cholera epidemic.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, speaking in Canada, voiced growing American impatience over the handling of the November 28 vote.

She said there was "a growing frustration. That as we're approaching the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake that there hasn't been the kind of coordinated, coherent response from the government of Haiti that is called for."

She described a call to freeze US aid as a "very strong signal that we expect more and we're looking for more."

The outcome of the contested presidential poll is crucial for a country struggling to recover from an earthquake 11 months ago that killed 250,000 people and forced 1.5 million into increasingly permanent tent cities.

US Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy suggested on Friday that the United States should cut off aid to the Haitian government and deny travel visas to its top officials to force a fair election outcome.

President Rene Preval, who has served his maximum two terms, is accused of rigging the November 28 polls in favour of a handpicked successor, 48-year-old ruling party candidate Jude Celestin.

Official results have him squeaking into a January 16 run-off by fewer than 7,000 votes ahead of Michel Martelly, a popular singer-turned-politician who accuses Preval of orchestrating a massive rigging conspiracy.

Top in the first round was academic and former first lady Mirlande Manigat, a 70-year-old longtime opposition leader whose husband was briefly president in 1988 before being ousted by a military coup.

A US State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, dated June 2009, reads like an eerie forecast of the current turmoil and strongly hinted that Preval, who has served his maximum of two terms, would seek to manage his succession.

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