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Haitian government pledges to lead reconstruction effort

At a meeting for world leaders in Montreal to discuss Haiti, Haitian PM Jean-Max Bellerive asked for help in the massive reconstruction of Haiti. An international conference on Haiti is planned for March at the UN headquarters in New York.


Top world officials gathered in Montreal Monday for emergency talks to hash out plans to rebuild Haiti, nearly two weeks after a killer earthquake devastated the impoverished nation.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and officials from the United Nations were among those taking part.

"The Haitian government is working in precarious conditions but it can provide the leadership that people expect," Mr Bellerive said.

"The top priority right now is to satisfy the vital needs of victims, like food and water, shelter and health care." He added: "Haiti needs the massive support of its partners in the international community in the medium and long term. The extent of the task requires that we do more, that we do better and, without a doubt, that we work differently."

FRANCE 24 correspondent Ian Macdonald in Montreal said that no figure had been given for the cost of long-term reconstruction, but that it is likely to be many billions of dollars.

“This meeting is not about rescue and recovery, but reconstruction over the next decade,” he said. “There are no hard figures about how much money needs to be put on the table, but there is a whispered figure that the cost will be at least $10 billion.”

Type of Marshall plan

Canada is eager to assert its role in coordinating the emergency response to the January 12 disaster, which left more than 150,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of others homeless, hungry and wounded.

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"Know that Canada, the group of friends of Haiti and the international community and non-governmental groups are pledging our support during this period of crisis and beyond," Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told Bellerive.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, founder of the international charity Doctors Without Borders, was also participating in the six-hour closed-door talks.

The ministers were discussing how to streamline delivery of food, water, drugs and medical supplies to the swelling number of people living in makeshift camps around the shattered capital of Port-au-Prince.

Diplomats have raised the possibility of a kind of Marshall Plan for the island nation, similar to the US-led post-war reconstruction of Europe, which would take decades and require a colossal commitment of resources and money.

Experts have warned that hundreds of thousands of Haitians will be living off foreign aid and in temporary housing for years to come during the slow reconstruction process. Thousands have been left disabled.

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