Originally: Haiti signs agreement to organize elections next year, with foreign support

Haiti has signed an agreement with the United Nations and Organization of American States to organize elections next year and already has US$9 million in U.S. aid available to help cover costs, officials said Tuesday.

The accord pledging presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 2005 was signed Monday, said Adama Guindo, coordinator of the project for the U.N. Development Program.

The U.S. funds, previously pledged by American officials, are the first to go into a trust fund set up by the United Nations to finance elections next year. The elections will replace a U.S.-backed interim government that took over after a bloody three-week rebellion led to the Feb. 29 ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The U.S. aid will be spent on training elections personnel, creating a new voter registration system and setting up an electronic voting system, Guindo said.

Officials hope the trust fund will reach US$41 million, Guindo said. The Haitian government has pledged US$3 million, while Canada, the European Union and other countries have also promised to contribute. The OAS is in charge of carrying out projects with the funds.

Haiti has also lacked a working parliament since January, when the terms of most members expired. Last year wrangling between Aristide?s government and the opposition thwarted plans for legislative elections.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has promised elections next year. But members of Aristide?s Lavalas Family party are threatening to boycott, saying it?s wrong that Aristide is in exile in South Africa while his supporters face persecution at home.

Dozens of former government workers and Lavalas party members have been jailed pending investigations into allegations that range from corruption to murder.