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More troops head to Haiti

Photo by Ramon Espinosa

Photo by Ramon Espinosa

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- U.S. troops landed on the lawn of Haiti's shattered presidential palace to the cheers of quake victims on Tuesday, and the U.N. said it would throw more police and soldiers into the sluggish global effort to aid the devastated country.

The U.N. forces are aimed at quelling the outbursts of violence that have slowed distribution of supplies, leaving many Haitians still without help a week after the magnitude-7.0 quake killed an estimated 200,000 people.

Looters were rampaging through part of downtown Port-au-Prince even as the Security Council voted to add 2,000 troops to the 7,000 military peacekeepers already in the country as well as 1,500 more police to the 2,100-strong international force.

Haitians jammed the fence of the palace grounds to gawk and cheer as U.S. troops emerged from six Navy helicopters.

''We are happy that they are coming, because we have so many problems,'' said Fede Felissaint, a hairdresser.

Given the circumstances, he did not even mind the troops taking up positions at the presidential palace. ''If they want, they can stay longer than in 1915,'' he said, a reference to the start of a 19-year U.S. military presence in Haiti -- something U.S. officials have repeatedly insisted they have no intention of repeating.

A full week after the quake, the capital's port remains blocked and too much aid must flow through the city's lone, small airport. Tens of thousands of people sleep in the streets or under plastic sheets in makeshift camps. Relief workers say they fear visiting some parts of the city.

Just four blocks from U.S. troops landing at the palace, hundreds of looters fought over bolts of cloth and other goods with broken bottles and clubs.

''That is how it is. There is nothing we can do,'' said Haitian police officer Arina Bence, who was trying to keep civilians out of the looting zone for their own safety.