U.N. police went to a garbage dump near the Haitian capital Wednesday to recover election materials, including numbered bags apparently used to carry results and tally sheets, amid charges that last week's presidential election was marred by fraud.
Thousands of ballots, including some that were marked, were strewn over an acre of the dump.
Associated Press reporters saw hundreds of empty ballot boxes, at least one vote tally sheet and several empty bags - numbered and signed by the heads of polling stations - strewn across the dump five miles north of Port-au-Prince.
"That's extraordinary," U.N. spokesman David Wimhurst said.
Catherine Sung, a U.N. electoral adviser who works at the main vote tabulation center, said the discovery of empty bags was troubling because they were not supposed to be thrown out.
When shown photographs of the bags, Sung said three of them were the kind used to carry invalid and blank ballots.
"They're supposed to be kept," she told the AP.
Leading candidate Rene Preval has alleged that the Feb. 7 vote was marred by "massive fraud or gross errors" designed to leave him just short of the majority needed for a first-round victory. Preliminary results from the first election since Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ouster two years ago showed Preval, a former Aristide protege, with a sizable lead.
A wave of chaotic protests by Preval supporters sent foreign diplomats scrambling for peaceful solutions. Preval, a former president, has urged the protesters to continue peacefully.
Ambassadors from countries "directly involved in the crisis" were discussing a Brazilian plan to persuade other candidates to recognize Preval's victory and prevent a mass uprising. In New York, the U.N. Security Council urged Haitians to respect election results and refrain from violence.
Haiti's interim government ordered the vote count suspended with 90 percent tallied, pending a review of tally sheets by an investigative commission.
The most recent results showed Preval had 48.76 percent of the vote, with 90 percent of ballots counted. He would need 50 percent plus one vote to win outright. Another former president, Leslie Manigat, was in second place with 11.8 percent.
Preval has vowed to challenge the results if officials insist on holding a March runoff.
HAITI'S ELECTION RESULTS
With 90 percent of the vote counted:
Rene Preval: 49%
Leslie Manigat: 12%
Jean Chavannes Jeune: 5%
Charles Henri Baker: 8%
Luc Mesadieu: 3%
Source: Haiti Electoral Council