World Bulletin/News Desk
The U.N. Security Council on Friday approved for another year the world body's peacekeeping force in Haiti, but it will be cut in size by about 15 percent as it hands over security responsibility to the Haitian national police.
The 15-nation council unanimously approved a reduction of authorized troops and police by 1,710 to 8,871, as recommended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. There are now about 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti, and Ban recommended a gradual drawdown to be completed by June 2013.
Haiti is still struggling to recover from a strong January 2010 earthquake that killed about 300,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless.
The U.N. force, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, was established in 2004 to help Haiti's short-staffed and ill-equipped police maintain security, especially during elections plagued by fraud and unrest. The force's size was increased after the earthquake.
Dozens of countries contribute troops and police to the force.
The U.N. force became highly unpopular in Haiti after peacekeepers were blamed by locals for a cholera outbreak two years ago this month that has sickened almost 600,000 people and killed more than 7,400 in the Caribbean nation, the poorest in the western hemisphere.
An independent panel appointed by Ban to study the epidemic issued a report in May 2011 that the United Nations said did not determine conclusively how cholera was introduced into Haiti.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June 2011 found that evidence strongly suggested U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal were the source.
In March, two U.N. peacekeepers from Pakistan were sentenced to a year in prison for raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy after being convicted in a Pakistani military trial in Haiti.
That rape case triggered renewed protests and demands from Haitian senators that U.N. peacekeepers be stripped of immunity and be tried in a Haitian court.