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Former U.S. President Clinton, the man for Haiti

2010-02-07 08:23 BJT

Special Report: Strong Quake Hits Haiti |

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- The choice by UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon of former U.S. President Bill Clinton to serve as chief coordinator for relief and rebuilding of earthquake- devastated Haiti seems as natural a fit as possible.

However, Clinton has been quick to dispel any notion he would become any grand overseer of Haiti.

"What I don't want to be is the governor of Haiti. I want to build the capacity of the country to chart its own course. They can trust me not to be a neo-colonialist; I'm too old," he said Friday after he arrived in the devastated Haitian capital of Port- au-Prince.

The 42nd president of the United States made his second visit to the island nation since the Jan. 12 earthquake registering 7.3 on the Richter scale that killed an estimated 200,000 people, injured 300,000 more and left 2 million in need of aid, a million of them homeless.

His first visit was just few days after the temblor when he arrived with a plane load of medical supplies. Friday was almost a repeat performance of his aid-delivering first post-quake visit.

One of the prime reason for Ban's decision Wednesday was that he had chosen Clinton as the world organization's special envoy to the island nation in May 2009 after a series of tropical storms and hurricanes swept through during the 2008 hurricane season and claimed about 1,000 lives.

Then, too, Clinton has a history with the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere going back to his first visit in 1975 with bride Hillary during what he called a delayed honeymoon.

While in the White House, Clinton engineered the return of a democratically-elected government following a military coup, further reflecting his interest in the hard-struck nation.

After completing two terms as the U.S. president, Clinton has concentrated on philanthropy through his New York-based William J. Clinton Foundation which focuses, among other topics, on economic development in Africa and Latin America, including Haiti.

Clinton apologized Friday to angry protesters in Port-au-Prince complaining of delayed aid, pledged to make every effort to speed up the transportation and distribution process but said he was pleased to already see progress.

"I'm trying to get to what the bottlenecks are; part of it is just shipping the volume of food here that is necessary," Clinton told reporters.

"Flying into Port-au-Prince for the second time since the earthquake, I was pleased to see continued signs of an expanding relief effort," he said in a statement posted on the Clinton Foundation website. "More than three weeks after the earthquake, the relief efforts in Haiti have been increasing to meet staggering needs, but the long road to recovery has just begun."