by Staff Writers
Montevideo (AFP) Dec 23, 2013
Lawmakers in Uruguay on Monday voted to keep peacekeepers in Haiti through the end of 2014, but said the government would keep open the option of an earlier full withdrawal.
The legislation approved in the Senate, and which had already passed in the lower house, calls for all peacekeepers to remain in the impoverished Caribbean nation until April 30, 2014.
At that point, one-third of the roughly 950 Uruguayan peacekeepers currently deployed in Haiti would be withdrawn. The remaining Blue Helmets would stay in place until year's end.
But the legislation said that Uruguay's president could "at any time" pull out an increased number of forces deployed, up to and including a total withdrawal, if circumstances warranted such a move.
The UN Security Council in October said it was reducing the size of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to just over 5,000 soldiers, from 6,233.
The UN force was initially sent in to end political strife in 2004 and played a key role in the aftermath of the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
It has faced controversy over a cholera epidemic that has been traced to a river next to a UN camp in Haiti where Nepalese troops were based.
Four Uruguayan sailors were detained in September 2012 on charges stemming from the alleged rape of a Haitian man in 2011. Sexual assault allegations were later thrown out.
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said in October that he would pull the peacekeepers out to a lack of democratic progress in Haiti.
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