UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, whose members have been accused of rape, assault and sparking a cholera epidemic in the country, is investigating new allegations that peacekeepers sexually abused minors.
"The U.N. Secretariat regrets to confirm that, on 16 January 2012, the U.N. mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, alerted headquarters about two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving minors in Haiti," spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters on Monday.
He said one of the cases involved U.N. police officers based in the capital Port-au-Prince.
"The accused officers have been removed from their duties to reduce any contact with the local population while the investigation is underway," he said.
He added that the second case involved at least one member of a U.N. police unit in Gonaives.
"The United Nations is outraged by these allegations and takes its responsibility to deal with them extremely seriously," Nesirky said.
MINUSTAH is no stranger to negative press in Haiti.
Many Haitians have called for the complete withdrawal of the force due to allegations that Nepalese U.N. troops brought a deadly cholera epidemic to the country after their camp latrines contaminated a river. That sparked riots in 2010.
Last year, the U.N. force faced renewed public protests over allegations a group of Uruguayan troops raped a man. In December the United Nations said it was investigating allegations of assault and attempted homicide by Brazilian peacekeepers.
In October 2011, the U.N. Security Council voted to reduce the size of the unpopular force by 2,750, bringing MINUSTAH to just under 10,600 troops and police. That brought the size of the force back to its level before the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince.
(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)