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Haiti's foreign minister approved as new premier

Reuters News
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Posted: May 04, 2012 12:49 AM
Haiti's foreign minister approved as new premier

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian lawmakers approved the nomination of a close adviser to President Michel Martelly as prime minister on Thursday, raising hopes of ending a political stalemate that has stalled reconstruction efforts after Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake.

The lower house of parliament voted 62-3, with two abstentions, to approve Martelly's nomination of Laurent Lamothe, currently Haiti's foreign minister.

Lamothe, a 39-year-old former businessman and close friend of Martelly, was approved by Haiti's Senate last month.

The vote capped a lengthy debate by lower house lawmakers over Martelly's designation to replace Garry Conille, who worked as an aide to former U.S. President Bill Clinton in his role as the U.N. special envoy to Haiti.

Conille resigned in February amid disputes with Martelly over reconstruction contracts, sparking concerns among international donors holding the purse strings to billions of dollars in aid that political infighting could affect rebuilding projects.

The quake killed as many as 300,000 people and wrecked much of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Under Haiti's constitution, it is difficult for the president to effectively run the country without a prime minister, who acts as the day-to-day head of government.

Diplomats and donors of international aid to Haiti, some of which has not been disbursed since pledges were made after the earthquake, had expressed concern about political paralysis in the wake of Conille's resignation.

Clinton issued a statement ahead of the vote urging Haiti's political leaders to move quickly to ratify Lamothe.

"I believe that the Haitian people deserve better from their leaders," the statement said. "The current political crisis disrupted progress towards a more prosperous Haiti for too long."

Two years after the earthquake, piles of concrete, steel and debris litter the streets of Port-au-Prince, where around a half a million people still live in tent camps.

Almost as many people have been sickened in a cholera outbreak that killed more than 7,000 since October 2010.

The United Nations warned in February that a lack of aid money is putting hundreds of thousands of displaced people at risk by limiting capacity to provide food and water, prevent crime and provide medical attention for cholera cases.

Martelly, who took office a year ago with no previous political experience, has spent much of his presidency without a prime minister and Haitian lawmakers rejected two of his previous nominees for the post before approving Conille.

(Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)