France's aid effort in Haiti

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been trying to defuse a potentially embarrassing quarrel with the United States over claims that France is being sidelined in the aid effort in Haiti. France's International Co-operation Minister Alain Joyandet complained that a French plane carrying a field hospital was turned back by US troops. The World's Europe correspondent Gerry Hadden reports.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. U.S. military helicopters landed on the grounds of Haiti's damaged presidential palace today. More than 12,000 U.S. military personnel are taking part in the multi-national effort to help the earthquake victims. Many in Haiti have cheered the arrival of U.S. troops but the American military presence there has ruffled some feathers abroad, most notably in France. The World's Gerry Hadden reports.

GERRY HADDEN: The Americans controlling Haiti's airport have had to delay the landing of dozens of planes, some carrying supplies, rescue personnel or doctors. At least five French planes were forced to land in the Dominican Republic over the weekend. One was carrying components of a large field hospital. The Americans say the problem is there's only one runway but French foreign diplomat, Alah [SOUNDS LIKE] Joyanday, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. embassy in Port au Prince over the incident. Speaking on French radio today, he said he wants the United Nations to better define the Americans' role in Haiti. This is about helping the Haitian people he said; it should not be a military occupation. It's about getting Haiti back on its feet. The allusion to occupation strikes a nerve among some in Europe. When European see U.S. soldiers these days, they're reminded of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which remain unpopular here but French political scientists, Francois Dreyfuss, says Europe's leaders shouldn't use that as a smoke screen to distract from their own lack of leadership in the Haitian crisis.

FRANCOIS DREYFUSS: The European countries are not very happy when their weakness is displayed through the power of another country and mainly when it is U.S.

HADDEN: Leaders from the 27 European Union member states, didn't formally meet to discuss the crisis in Haiti until yesterday, nearly a week after the quake. They have pledged over half a billion dollars in aid but they did not announce a joint, on the ground mission like the American one. Instead, each country has been coordinating its own relief efforts. Now some European governments are seeking to distance themselves from France's public displeasure with the Americans. Spain's foreign minister, Migalan Jelmoratinos, said it made sense that the U.S. controlled the initial on the ground operations, because of its proximity to Haiti, its ties to the country and above all, its superior capacity to respond. France's irritation will probably blow over pretty quickly but the wariness may be remain and not just among the French. That's in part because the United States has a checkered history in Haiti. While U.S. officials deny it, many inside and outside Haiti said the U.S. is partly responsible for two coups there over the last 20 years. Among them is Canadian writer, Peter Halward. Halward says it's troubling that President Obama has asked his two predecessors to raise funds for Haiti. He points out that former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and loans to Haiti. Speaking to the website,, Halward said this policy destabilized the country.

PETER HALWARD: Yes there's a need for emergency relief that's undeniable but on what terms and under what conditions and in whose interests?

HADDEN: U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in Haiti this weekend, told the Haitian people that the U.S. would stay in Haiti for as long as needed but as a partner in rebuilding. For The World, I'm Gerry Hadden.