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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2006, 20:55 GMT
Haiti sets new date for election
A woman walks past posters of a presidential candidate in Haiti
The polls will be the first since Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted
Electoral authorities in Haiti have agreed to hold the first round of presidential and parliamentary elections on 7 February.

The polls, originally set for November, have been postponed four times because of security and organisational issues.

The United Nations Security Council on Friday urged the country's interim government quickly to set a date.

The elections will be the first since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from power nearly two years ago.

Meanwhile, investigations are continuing into the apparent suicide of the commander of United Nations peacekeeping forces in Haiti.

The body of Gen Urano Teixeira Da Matta Bacellar was discovered early on Saturday in a hotel room in the capital, Port-au-Prince, with a bullet wound to the head.

UN officials said it appeared the general, who took over as head of the 9,000-strong peacekeeping force last September, had shot himself.

He will be replaced by Chilean General Eduardo Aldunate Herman.

Instability

Despite the presence of the UN peacekeepers, the country has continued to be blighted by political and criminal violence and instability.

Killings and kidnappings are now a daily occurrence in the capital.

Map of Haiti
The current UN Security Council president, Augustine Mahiga of Tanzania, has called on the Haitian authorities to ensure the elections take place in accordance with internationally accepted democratic standards.

Rosemond Pradel, secretary general of Haiti's provisional electoral council, said he was confident officials would be ready on time.

The poll has faced repeated delays because of spikes in violence, delays in distributing 3.5 million voter identification cards and problems with polling stations.

The elections will see 35 candidates stand for president and hundreds more for compete for the 129 seats in Congress.

The second round of voting is scheduled to take place on 19 March.

With so many candidates running, there are few who believe the elections will bring the peace that Haiti so desperately needs, correspondents say.

Voting had originally been scheduled for November, then moved to December, and then delayed again until 8 January.

Last week Haiti's provisional electoral council had postponed the election a fourth time, without setting a new date.


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