By Dialogo October 17, 2011 The United Nations aims to cut back its peacekeeping force in Haiti this year as the number of blue-helmet troops around the world hits a record of more than 120,000, officials indicated on October 13. The new head of UN peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, said cutback was not linked to the sexual assault and cholera scandals that have hit the Haiti mission, known as MINUSTAH, this year. The UN Security Council is to approve an extension of the MINUSTAH mandate. The United Nations sent a “surge” of about 3,000 specialist engineering troops to Haiti after the January, 2010 earthquake which killed more than 200,000 people. “We believe that it should be possible to reduce, to come back to the levels of MINUSTAH before the earthquake,” Ladsous told a press conference. At the end of August there were about 8,700 troops from 18 countries in the mission, 3,500 police and 500 civilian personnel. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended reducing this by about 2,750 over the next 12 months. “In general I think there is a desire from the government of Haiti to retain MINUSTAH,” Ladsous said, quoting one survey which said 60 percent of the population wants to keep the mission. Ladsous said there were now more than 120,000 peacekeepers around the world, including about 98,000 uniformed troops. “We are at about the highest level ever,” the Frenchman added. “It is true that we have to cut back where we can,” he said. “Of course we are going to reduce numbers where we can, and of course costs.” UN peacekeeping has an annual budget of about $8 billion and the Haiti mission alone will cost about $800 million in the current financial year.
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