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France Offers over 300 Mln Euros to Aid Haiti

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Visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday announced an aid package worth a total of 326 million euros (US$443 million) to help Haiti recover from the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The aid includes 40 million euros in budget support for Haiti's government, cancellation of 56 million euros of debt, 100 million euros of fresh funds to be provided over two years and 65 million euros to be channeled through the European Union.

It also includes the supply of 1,000 tents and 16,000 tarpaulins to help shelter 200,000 people during Haiti's rainy season, which typically begins in late March or April.

The package also includes training 100 Haitian civil servants in French administrative colleges and others within Haiti as well as sending 10 experts to work with Haiti's government in the next two years.

Sarkozy announced the aid package at a press conference in the French embassy in Haiti attended by Haitian President Rene Preval.

He said the reconstruction effort in Haiti must create conditions for this country to achieve "a sustainable development," which will gradually allow the Haitians to relinquish "dependency on international aid, which suffocated the people's initiative and activity" after the earthquake.

"It's up to Haitians, and to them alone, to define a true national project and to drive it," the French president said. "The role of the international community and of France is to help Haitians retake control of their destiny."

Sarkozy is the first sitting French president who visits Haiti since this Caribbean country achieved its independence from France in 1804.

(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2010)

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