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Berlusconi praises US job in Haiti

Premier in bid to sooth anger over criticism by Italian envoy

26 January, 18:56
Berlusconi praises US job in Haiti (ANSA) - Rome, January 26 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday praised the United States' leadership of the relief effort in quake-hit Haiti in an attempt to soothe anger over riticism levelled by the Italian special envoy this weekend.

''In critical situations like the one in Haiti, organizational difficulties are inevitable,'' Berlusconi warranted.

''But without the US's intervention, managing the situation would have been much more difficult''.

''Everyone is doing their best in Haiti and right now, we need to stop being critical and focus our energies on the enormous task at hand,'' he said.

Regarding remarks by Civil Protection Chief Guido Bertolaso who, during a Sunday telecast direct from Haiti, bemoaned a lack of central coordination, Berlusconi said that ''at times like these, it's best to avoid making statements that could lead to misunderstandings''.

He added that Foreign Minister Franco Frattini had clarified the government's position on Monday during talks in Washington with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite playing down criticism as ''armchair quarterbacking'' during a joint press conference with Frattini, Clinton said Tuesday that she ''deeply resented'' insinuations that the US had done less than it could.

''We have scrambled as quick as we could to do everything needed in the past two weeks,'' she said.

While Clinton did not single out any detractors in particular, she did point out that the troops sent to Haiti were there to distribute food and medicine, a possible response to a remark by Bertolaso who accused the US of sending ''too many soldiers and not enough aid personnel''.

The Secretary of State added that she had nothing against ''constructive criticism'', but that the US had been judged unfairly by many voices abroad.

The United Nations' job in Haiti was also cast in an unfavourable light during Bertolaso's interview, particularly former US President Bill Clinton as the UN's special envoy.

But a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday denied that the remark had caused any friction, saying that Berlusconi had ''cleared the matter up''.

Frattini later said the same thing when asked during an online newspaper interview if Bertolaso, who rose to national fame for guiding the relief efforts after the April 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila, had fallen out of favour with the government.

''Berlusconi has said everything there is to say on the matter. The case is closed,'' he said.

Photo: Foreign Minister Franco rattini and Premier Silvio Berlusconi

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