Monday, March 29, 2010

U.N. soiree may feature Clinton vs. Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

UNITED NATIONS – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to grab the spotlight with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Haitian President Rene Preval at a major fundraiser next week and in the process shove her husband, former President Bill Clinton, to the sidelines.

U.N. sources say Hillary, representing the Obama White House, will be a "central" figure at the U.N.'s Haiti Donor Conference to be convened at the organization's New York City headquarters Wednesday.

Bill Clinton, as special envoy, has been the U.N.'s point man on Haitian relief efforts over the last several months.

The conference is expected to chart the strategy and raise money for the long-term reconstruction of the earthquake-ravaged nation.

It will be hosted jointly by the U.N., the U.S. and the government of Haiti.

The Jan. 12 catastrophe killed more than 225,000 and has left an estimated 1.4 million homeless. Many of the homeless are still without electricity or running water.

Bill Clinton, who has traveled to Haiti three times since the quake, represented both the Clinton Foundation and the U.N., as Ban's envoy, during the visits.

In mid-January, Hillary Clinton was the first international dignitary to arrive in the Caribbean nation, just days after the calamity occurred.

Bill Clinton followed days later with one of the first plane loads of emergency medical supplies.

But they have not appeared together in connection with aid or fund-raising for the embattled island nation.

The U.N. fundraiser next week will mark the first joint appearance of the two at such an event.

Recently, numerous published reports have claimed that relations between the two are again strained for a variety of reasons.

At the U.N., officials are walking a tightrope in an effort to accommodate both Clintons.

Bill Clinton, according to the U.N., has been the individual that has raised the most money for Haiti -- more than $600 million -- while the U.S. has been the largest donor nation, almost $1 billion.

The upcoming donor conference was intended originally as a forum for the former president to nail down many of the informal pledges made for Haiti's long-term recovery.

Now, it appears the U.N.'s special envoy will take a back seat to his nominal boss Ban Ki-moon as well as to his domestic one, Hillary.

In another signal of the stresses building in advance of the upcoming meeting, Preval will make only a brief appearance in New York, said U.N. ambassador Leo Merores:

"His schedule is full. He will only be in New York for a few hours," the ambassador explained.

Preval has come under scathing attack for his disappearing act during the quake.

For more than four days after the quake struck, Preval was nowhere to be found.

The presidential palace in Port-au-Prince collapsed, though it was said Preval had not been injured.

CNN was the first to find the president holed up under armed guard at a makeshift command center in what had been a local police station.

While Preval insisted his government was "up and running," nothing beyond a small group of staffers at the police complex could be seen.

With most ministries collapsed, what had been the Haitian government is now mostly confined to a small group of pre-fab huts at Port-au-Prince airport.

Reports continue to mount of gangs seizing foreign aid at several docks, selling the merchandise on the local black market and harassing local refugee camps.

More than 5,000 prison and jail inmates escaped during the earthquake. To date, only 200 have been captured.

Ban admitted that local crime has become a problem, but he insisted U.N. peacekeepers and the Haitian police were addressing the situation.

The U.N. chief, who recently returned to Haiti, told a group of refugees that he took the growing crime problem seriously.

"We will make every effort to ensure that (relief) camps remain safe and secure," the U.N. chief said.

All of the problems now arising throughout Haiti the U.N. suspects will surface at next week's conference.

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