[R-G] France calls for Aristide resignation, UN force Ed in Haiti
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Feb 26 10:42:07 MST 2004
France Seeks U.N. Force in Haiti
By CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS
Published: February 26, 2004
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 - France called Wednesday for the immediate
formation of a United Nations-backed security force to go to Haiti and
stabilize the country, which is in the third week of a rebel uprising.
It also urged President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign.
The proposal, which was outlined by Foreign Minister Dominique de
Villepin and will be presented Thursday to United Nations diplomats,
could result in the deployment "within days" of a multinational police
force, a French diplomat said.
But the proposal was ambiguous about whether Paris would support
dispatching the force without first obtaining an agreement between the
Haitian political opponents and Mr. Aristide's government.
A senior State Department official said talks with the French had
suggested that they did not want to intervene in a hostile environment.
The crisis has linked the interests of Haiti's nonviolent opposition to
armed rebels who have set their sights on the capital, Port-au-Prince.
The French proposal also calls for the voluntary departure of President
Aristide as part of a settlement. Mr. Aristide, who became Haiti's first
elected president in 1990, has said he will not step down until his
second term runs out, in 2006.
But France, which surrendered its colonial power in Haiti two centuries
ago but left a strong cultural imprint, now contends that the Aristide
government has lost its legitimacy and should be replaced.
"The regime has reached an impasse and has already shaken off
constitutional legality," Mr. de Villepin said.
As turmoil mounted in Haiti, President Bush issued a stern warning to
Haitians that the United States would not tolerate a refugee influx to
Florida. American patrols will continue to intercept and send back any
Haitians trying to escape to the United States by boat, he said.
"I have made it abundantly clear to the Coast Guard that we will turn
back any refugee that attempts to reach our shore, and that message
needs to be very clear, as well, to the Haitian people," Mr. Bush said,
in his most extensive remarks on the crisis. "We will have a robust
presence with an effective strategy, and so we encourage, strongly
encourage, the Haitian people to stay home as we work to reach a
peaceful solution to this problem."
The Coast Guard intercepted a Panamanian-registered ship Wednesday about
seven miles off Miami, but did not confirm television reports that it
might have been hijacked by Haitians, Reuters reported.
Administration officials said they welcomed the French proposal, but
would need to study it before commenting. Secretary of State Colin L.
Powell has been in close contact with Mr. de Villepin, speaking with him
twice on Wednesday, suggesting that their positions may not be far
apart, an official said.
France has security forces in the Caribbean that could be deployed
quickly as peacekeepers, probably with others from the region, a French
official said. The Bush administration has so far not envisioned sending
American forces; it would most likely provide logistical and financial
Mr. de Villepin's proposal recommends "the immediate establishment of a
civilian peacekeeping force," but it is unclear whether the force would
impose a peace accord or protect one after it is reached. French
diplomats said the ambiguities would be addressed Thursday.
"This international force would be responsible for guaranteeing the
return to public order and supporting the international community's
action on the ground," the proposal said. "It would come to the support
of a government of national unity."
The proposal incorporates elements from a plan presented by the United
States and the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, to Mr. Aristide and his
opponents last weekend. Mr. Aristide embraced that plan, which would
have allowed him to remain in power, but opposition leaders insisted he
must go, bringing talks to a standstill.
The French proposal calls for establishing a politically neutral
government of national unity, as in the Caricom plan, but also requires
the election of a new president by summer. It foresees sending in human
rights observers, relief aid and a United Nations representative.
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