Originally: France wants the U.N. to send peacekeepers immediately, but Secretary of State Colin Powell says the U.S. won’t be involved without a political settlement
Posted on Wed, Feb. 18, 2004
NEW YORK – Saying the crisis in Haiti has ”moved beyond the discussion phase,” France on Tuesday launched a determined lobbying effort to rush foreign peacekeepers to its former colony despite U.S. objections.
”We have to reflect on what we can do, for example, in the framework of the [U.N.] Security Council,” Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in Paris after a lengthy meeting with his Haiti experts.
But U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said earlier Tuesday that a political settlement to the 2-week-old strife in the Caribbean nation is necessary before Washington considers sending any peacekeepers.
”There is frankly no enthusiasm right now for sending in military or police forces to put down the violence,” Powell said of the strife that has left 60 dead as armed gangs push to topple President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
De Villepin, nevertheless, decided after his staff meeting to call Powell and the other foreign ministers from Security Council member nations within the next day to lobby for a peacekeeping mission to Haiti, a senior advisor to de Villepin told The Herald.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the world body was ”extremely concerned” about Haiti and has been in touch with the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community, both are trying to mediate an end to the crisis. But he made no mention of any specific U.N. plans.
”Can we deploy a peacekeeping force? We are in contact with all our partners within the framework of the United Nations,” de Villepin said before the staff meeting.
Later, his advisor said the options agreed on include an initial deployment of about 5,000 troops, which could grow later to 10,000, under formal mandates from the Security Council, the OAS or the Caribbean Community, known as CARICOM, he said.
France would be willing to send its own armed forces and would accept U.S. financial and logistical support for the deployment but is not insisting on a U.S. troop presence, the advisor added.
The French proposal runs counter to Powell’s position. He said U.S. officials have had discussions with France, the OAS and CARICOM about “sending in police to sustain a political settlement, not to go in and put down the current violence.”
”What we want to do right now is find a political solution, and then there are willing nations that would come forward with a police presence to implement the political agreement that the sides come to,” Powell said.
Powell also called on Aristide and his political opponents to open a dialogue and try to reduce tensions, which spring from disputed legislative elections in 2000, as the OAS has sought for three years and CARICOM for the past month. But the French believe that the OAS and CARICOM initiatives have stalled and need new teeth, the de Villepin advisor said.
”An intervention force . . . implies a stop to the violence, a restart of the dialogue,” de Villepin told reporters in Paris. “Nothing will be possible in Haiti if there’s isn’t a jolt.”
In the Bush administration’s strongest language yet, Powell said the United States does not support opposition demands that Aristide resign before they call off protest marches or the armed revolt in northern Haiti by gangs and former soldiers opposed to the president.
”We cannot buy into a proposition that says the elected president must be forced out of office by thugs and those who do not respect law and are bringing terrible violence to the Haitian people,” he said.
”We also have some individuals coming back into the country who had formerly been excluded from civil life in Haiti for very good reasons — they’re murderers and thugs, and we can’t expect anyone to deal with these kinds of individuals,” Powell said.
He was referring to members and paramilitary supporters of the brutal military dictatorship that toppled Aristide from 1991 to 1994, when U.S. troops invaded the Caribbean country, who are backing the anti-Aristide gangs in the current revolt.
U.S. officials in Washington also said the Bush administration soon would begin a campaign to warn Haitians against a mass exodus by boat. The U.S. Embassy in Haiti said it had already sent messages for broadcast by radio stations in the north, a traditional launching point for smugglers’ boats.
As the humanitarian crisis deepened in Haiti because of road barricades manned by the anti-Aristide gunmen, U.S. AID officials said they were preparing to send a mission there to assess its needs.
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, meanwhile urged the Bush administration to cooperate ”with an international military or police force to restore order” in Haiti.
”If we can send military forces to Liberia — 3,000 miles away — we certainly can act to protect our interests in our own backyard,” Graham said. “Inaction can no longer be our policy.”