1 January ? As Haiti today celebrated 200 years of independence, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan lauded the milestone and urged the country to break through its present political deadlock to achieve development.

Mr. Annan congratulated all Haitians, calling the proclamation of the independent Republic of Haiti on 1 January 1804 the “beginning of the end of slavery in the Americas,” a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement.

Today’s bicentennial marks “an anniversary of deep significance to all mankind,” he said, adding that it also serves as an “ideal” start to the UN International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition.

The Secretary-General voiced hope that Haitians, while recalling the spirit of their forefathers, would find a way to overcome the current political impasse in their country.

“There is a need to build a consensus that allows the goals of good governance, respect for human rights, economic and social recovery, and human and environmental regeneration to be more vigorously pursued,” the spokesman said, pledging the UN’s full support in the drive to build a better future for all Haitians.