WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama meets Wednesday with Haitian President Rene Preval, renewing his pledge of US support for efforts to rebuild the quake-shattered Caribbean nation.
Topping the agenda for the meeting, which comes ahead of an international donors' conference later this month, were ongoing relief, recovery, and reconstruction efforts in Haiti.
Preval is seeking billions of dollars to help rebuild his nation - the poorest country in the Americas - which lost 222,000 lives, 70 percent of its capital Port-au-Prince and more than half its economy in the January 12 catastrophe.
The United States and United Nations last week announced a Haiti Donors' Conference to be held in New York on March 31 to mobilize international support for Haiti's reconstruction.
Wednesday's White House visit comes one day after Preval met here with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called for new elections in Haiti as soon as possible.
"I assured President Preval that the United States would work with the international community to hold elections as soon as appropriate," the chief US diplomat said.
Legislative polls originally set for February and March were postponed after the January 12 earthquake that demolished the capital Port-au-Prince and left a million Haitians homeless.
The elections call comes as quake survivors say poor governance, corruption and shoddy construction magnified a disaster that was hundreds of times less powerful than the quake in Chile but far more deadly and devastating.
Preval, 67, who also served as president from 1996 to 2001, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third mandate. His current term expires in February 2011 and presidential elections are expected in December.
Preval underscored that stability was the key to attracting badly-needed foreign investment and suggested Haiti needed to be rebuilt differently with greater economic opportunities for people outside the capital.
"Today, we are faced with a historical situation that will allow us to rebuild, refound this country," he said.
"In the past, everything had been concentrated and focused on the capital, where the political and economic elites of the country live, and the rest of the country was neglected," he said.