France mulls international peace force for Haiti

PARIS (AFP) – France is exploring the idea of sending an international peacekeeping force to the Caribbean state of Haiti torn by two weeks of civil unrest, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said.



“We want to think about what could be done in this emergency situation,” de Villepin told the state-owned France Inter radio station. “Could a peace force be deployed?”

The minister, whose country ruled what is now Haiti in the 18th century, said the French government had set up its own crisis unit on the situation which was to hold its first meeting Tuesday.

De Villepin added that France, with overseas territories both in the Caribbean and in South America, was in a position to rapidly deploy resources to Haiti, and a large number of other countries were also ready to act.

“We have important assets close to Haiti … we have skills in the field of humanitarian interventions,” he said.

“That is what we want to make available when the time comes.”

The French minister expressed concern that the current uprising in Haiti could lead to a partition of the poverty-stricken country.

De Villepin’s US counterpart, Colin Powell (newsweb sites), on Friday flatly ruled out international intervention, but also said Washington would not accept the forced removal of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Aristide, a former priest who was ousted by a coup in 1991 and reinstated by a US-led international military force in 1994, is facing a rebellion in several cities that since February 5 has cost the lives of more than 55 people.

In an interview with the New York Times newspaper published Tuesday he vowed to remain in office until his current term runs out in February 2006.

But he has called for outside help to quell the violence in the form of an international police force possibly under the banner of the Organization of American States.

The European Union (newsweb sites) on Monday expressed concern at the unrest. The EU’s Irish presidency issued a statement calling on “political forces, without exception, to refrain from any kind of violent behaviour.”

It added: “The European Union strongly believes that the present crisis in Haiti must be resolved peacefully, by seeking dialogue and compromise,” the statement said.