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Haiti appoints new Prime Minister

Haiti's Senate has approved Garry Conille as Prime Minister, with authorities hoping the appointment will jump-start stalled earthquake reconstruction efforts.

President Michel Martelly's two previous nominees for the post had been rejected by lawmakers and the absence of a fully functioning government had impeded his ability to govern since taking office in May.

Senators voted 17-3 with nine abstentions for Mr Conille, a gynaecologist who served as an aide to Bill Clinton in the former US President's role as UN envoy to Haiti. Mr Conille had worked for the UN since 1999 in countries such as Haiti, Ethiopia and, for a few months this summer, in Niger.

"Congratulations to the Senate that they ratified our choice," Martelly spokesman Lucien Jura said. "There will be a government to implement the Martelly vision that the country needs. The Senate made a decision that will improve the lives of the population."

A Prime Minister is needed to install a Cabinet in Haiti and the rejections of Mr Martelly's candidates had accentuated the slow pace of reconstruction efforts following last year's powerful quake.

The debate to ratify Mr Conille, which lasted about six hours, centred around questions over his residency qualifications. Government officials in Haiti are required to have spent five consecutive years in Haiti under the constitution but French and Haitian Creole versions of the document do not specify when the residency period begins. Mr Conille's job had taken him out of Haiti for years.

In the end, a group of senators from a majority coalition agreed Mr Conille was eligible.

"(We're) going to give Haiti a new Prime Minister," Jean Joel Joseph, a member of the ruling Unity party, said before the senate voted.

In his new job, Mr Conille will help lead reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake and will assume responsibilities as co-chair of a recovery panel with his former boss, Mr Clinton.

The panel, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, has drawn heavy criticism for making little visible progress since the disaster.

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