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Clinton vows to pressure Haiti on election, but not cut off aid

By the CNN Wire Staff
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with Haitian leaders to discuss the disputed election.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with Haitian leaders to discuss the disputed election.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Clinton says the U.S. won't end humanitarian relief, despite major political concerns
  • NEW: She says she'll push to get 3rd candidate on the runoff ballot, as other groups have done
  • Clinton will meet with Haitian president and various political leaders during her visit
RELATED TOPICS
  • Haiti
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Rene Preval

(CNN) -- On her way to Haiti, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that the United States wouldn't cut aid to the economically and politically unsettled Caribbean nation -- despite major concerns about its recent and upcoming presidential elections.

Clinton said she planned to keep up pressure on the Port-au-Prince government, headed by President Rene Preval, to honor recommendations from the Organization of American States related to who is on the ballot for its pivotal upcoming presidential runoff.

Still, she said that any political differences would not affect U.S. support for Haiti, an already impoverished country before a devastating earthquake last year followed months later by a deadly cholera outbreak. More than 200,000 people have been sickened and 4,030 have died as of January 24, according to the latest report posted by the ministry.

"We are not talking about any of that," Clinton told reporters. "We have a deep commitment to the Haitian people. And that (applies) to humanitarian aid, it goes to governance and democracy programs."

While Clinton will visit a cholera clinic, addressing Haiti's political turmoil will largely dominate her visit.

Shortly after the November 28 presidential elections, Haiti's electoral council announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat had won but lacked a majority of votes for an outright victory.

Initial results put her in a runoff with Jude Celestin, a protege of the president. The third-place candidate, popular musician Michel Martelly, claimed he had won more votes than Celestin and a review of results by an Organization of American States team supported that contention. That review suggested that Martelly earned a spot in the runoff.

"The international community has been very clear, and I am going to carry that message," said Clinton, alluding to the U.S. support for allowing Martelly on the runoff ballot. "But I will also be listening."

She said she'll meet with all three potential candidates -- Manigat, Celestin and Martelly -- during her trip this week to Haiti, as well as with President Rene Preval.

On Sunday, Clinton acknowledged "many complications" and "legitimate concerns," including a tight timeline. But she added that the United States was in sync with the prevailing view of diplomats from North and South America, as well as the United Nations and European Union.

It's unclear whether Preval's ruling Inite (Unity) party plans to withdraw its support of Celestin in light of the election review.

Discontent with Preval and his government manifested itself on the streets of Haiti after the preliminary results were announced. Haitians charged vote fraud and burned cars, tires and Celestin's campaign headquarters in Port-au-Prince.

The electoral council said it will announce the final results of the first round on Wednesday.

The runoff is scheduled for March 20, and final results will not be known until April 16.

"If there are ideas that we should follow up on, we will take those into account," Clinton said of her planned discussions with Haitian leaders and candidates. "But we want to see the OAS recommendations followed."

CNN's Moni Basu contributed to this report