PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The head of the United Nations mission in Haiti promised logistical support for the country's national elections this year.
In a news conference Friday, Hedi Annabi, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special representative, said the United Nations will handle the distribution of ballots and other electoral material to Haiti's 11,500 polling places and collect the ballots and transport them to Port-au-Prince. Haitians will vote for members of both of the Caribbean island nation's legislative bodies Feb. 28.
"And we will assure security, so we will deploy police and military personnel throughout the country," he added. "We cannot physically be present everywhere all the time, but we will try to be as present as possible with the personnel we have at our disposal to create an environment in which the people can go to vote freely and make their choice. And, of course, the deployed personnel will be authorized to intervene every time anybody tries to disrupt the electoral process."
The United Nations has deployed 11,000 peacekeepers in Haiti since former President Jean-Bertrande Aristide went into exile in 2004.
In his first news conference of the new year, Annabi said Haiti ended the year and decade on a hopeful note. The economy grew 2.5 percent in 2009 in spite of the global recession and is expected to grow even faster in the next few years.