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The UN fears Haiti is on the brink as it votes whether to extend its work there

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote tomorrow to extend the U.N.'s work in Haiti, but the council has yet to decide whether to send international troops. Gangs have taken over much of the country, and the U.N. has been warning for months that the country is on the brink. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Maria Isabel Salvador has been the lead U.N. official on Haiti for just a few months. She knew this was going to be a tough assignment. Gangs control much of Haiti's capital, so she can't move around much. But she says coming from Ecuador, she understands the problems that plague Haiti.

MARIA ISABEL SALVADOR: I have some advantage in the sense that all the things that happen in Haiti happen in the rest of the continent and in my own country, in Ecuador, with one very important difference - is that, of course, the situation in Haiti is extreme, but the problems are the same.

KELEMEN: Political problems, poverty and insecurity - the U.N. Special Representative fears that Haiti is heading to, as she puts it, a point of no return. And she's urging the U.N. Security Council to approve an international force. She knows many Haitians were initially skeptical, given Haiti's long history of failed interventions.

SALVADOR: But I can assure you that the great majority of Haitian people want this force because they know that the Haitian National Police will not be able to provide the security they need to have a normal or more or less normal living.

KELEMEN: But the U.N. has been talking about this since last fall, and no country has offered to lead such a force. Salvador was here in Washington to get an update on U.S. efforts.

SALVADOR: Mainly, the United States have been trying to find a country who would be ready to take the lead, and, of course, that is a requirement. If there is no country taking the lead, it is going to be very difficult to have this multilateral non-U.N. international force.

KELEMEN: The U.S. tried to convince Canada or Brazil to take the lead and is now looking to countries in Africa and Asia. The other possibility is a formal U.N. peacekeeping force. Either way, it will require another Security Council resolution and another debate.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.