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US military airlifts embassy personnel from Haiti, bolsters security

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. military said on Sunday it has carried out an operation in Haiti to airlift non-essential embassy personnel from the country and added U.S. forces to bolster embassy security, as the Caribbean nation reels under a state of emergency.

The operation was the latest sign of Haiti's troubles as gang violence threatens to bring down the government and has led thousands to flee their homes.

"This airlift of personnel into and out of the embassy is consistent with our standard practice for embassy security augmentation worldwide, and no Haitians were on board the military aircraft," the U.S. military's Southern Command said in a statement.

The European Union's delegation in Haiti has temporarily closed its offices and reduced its presence in the country to the minimum, according to a post on social media X, citing security concerns.

Haiti entered a state of emergency last Sunday after fighting escalated while Prime Minister Ariel Henry was in Nairobi seeking a deal for the long-delayed U.N.-backed mission.

Kenya announced last year it would lead the force but months of domestic legal wrangling have effectively placed the mission on hold.

On Saturday, the U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken with Kenyan President William Ruto about the Haiti crisis and the two men underscored their commitment to a multinational security mission to restore order.

In the Southern Command's statement, it said Washington remained committed to those goals.

"Our embassy remains focused on advancing U.S. government efforts to support the Haitian people, including mobilizing support for the Haitian National Police, expediting the deployment of the United Nations-authorized Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission and accelerating a peaceful transition of power via free and fair elections," it said.

Jamaica will host leaders from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on March 11 to discuss ways to support Haiti and promote political dialogue.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Additional reporting by Harold Isaac in Port-au-Prince; Editing by Louise Heavens and Sandra Maler)