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Haiti seeks billions in international aid

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti July 25 (Reuters) - Haiti will ask for $7 billion (3.7 billion pounds) from international donors meeting in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday to help the troubled Caribbean country revive its moribund economy, a government minister said.

Haitian Foreign Affairs Minister Renald Clerisme said on Monday that the government needs several billion dollars to implement medium- and long-term projects likely to have a sustainable impact on the social and economic situation in the poorest country in the Americas.

"We are seeking $7 billion in the long term," Clerisme told Reuters. "But what we need for the next months and the next fiscal year is about $500 million."

Road building, agriculture, tourism and institutional reform projects top the long list of proposals Haiti will present to international donors.

About 40 delegations from bilateral and multilateral institutions have registered to take part in the conference, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Union and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, Thomas Shannon, and the U.N. Development Program's director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Rebeca Grynspan, also will attend the meeting.

The new government led by President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis is counting on the meeting to help it access badly needed funding for capital spending and operating costs.

The government has been unable to submit its budget to Parliament for approval because it could not provide funding detail until it receives donors' pledges, officials said.

"We need to know the commitment of the international donors before we can actually plan what we're going to do," Finance Minister Daniel Dorsainvil said.

The donor community pledged $1.3 billion in July 2004 to help Haiti rebuild after a bloody rebellion toppled the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide five months earlier.

The interim government that replaced Aristide complained that less than half that amount had actually been disbursed. But diplomats said Haiti's very weak absorption capacity and fund release procedures were among the reasons for slow and delayed disbursements.

The U.N. Development Program's representative in Haiti, Adama Guindo, said donors have been working to simplify procedures, especially in the case of Haiti, which is recovering from a conflict, while ensuring funds are used properly.

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