WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama pledged to stand by Haiti as it recovers from its devastating earthquake, assuring the stricken nation's leader Wednesday that the United States will not turn its back on neighbors in a time of need.
The situation on the ground "remains dire," Obama said after a morning meeting with President René Préval, noting that many Haitians are still in desperate need of shelter, food and medicine as the spring rainy season approaches.
"That's why, even as the U.S. military responsibly hands off relief functions to our Haitian and international partners, America's commitment to Haiti's recovery and reconstruction must endure and will endure," Obama said, standing side-by-side with Préval in the Rose Garden.
"I intend for America to keep our pledge," Obama said. "America will be your partner in the recovery and reconstruction effort."
Préval thanked Obama and the American people "not only for the material aid, but also for the moral support, the psychological support."
Préval is meeting with administration officials and lawmakers in search of support. But while U.S. officials offer sympathy and pledge continuing commitment, Haitians are interested in more specific talks about how international aid will be administered.
Obama did not detail what the United States is willing to do next, nor what authority it might want to retain over the expenditure of aid funds. The administration plans to seek funding from Congress, possibly later this month. The request is expected to range up to $3 billion.