By CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS
ASHINGTON, March 29 ? The Bush administration, still seeking more foreign troops to help stabilize Haiti, voiced concern on Monday over a refusal by Caribbean leaders to recognize that country’s American-backed interim government.
At a summit meeting last week in St. Kitts, leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, or Caricom, withstood American pressure to embrace the new Haitian government led by Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and deferred a decision until July on whether to formally accept its legitimacy.
At the same time, the Caribbean leaders, who act by consensus, called for a United Nations investigation into the circumstances that led to the American-assisted exile last month of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Mr. Aristide, who is currently in Jamaica as a guest of the government, insists that his departure was coerced by American forces.
The skepticism of the Caribbean nations toward United States actions in Haiti is the latest obstacle for American policy makers seeking to quell political violence in the country and return it to a sense of normality. A crucial part of that effort has been the deployment of American and other foreign forces, who have made significant progress in pacifying Haiti’s two largest cities, Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien, officials said.
But the administration wants more foreign contributions, both to reinforce the interim multinational force, whose mandate expires in two months, and then to provide peacekeepers and police trainers over the longer term.
There are 1,940 American troops in Haiti, as well as 825 French troops, 435 Canadians and nearly 330 Chileans, according to the Pentagon. Administration officials have said they expect to cap the American presence at about 2,000 soldiers, and would welcome 2,000 or 3,000 troops from other countries.
The administration still hopes to pull out its troops within 60 days and see them replaced by peacekeepers as outlined by the United Nations. But that goal may be difficult. So far, only Brazil has committed itself to providing security forces for the second phase.
Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said Monday that the administration would continue to press for Caribbean nations to help the interim government establish security and lay the groundwork for elections. “We would prefer that they be more involved, as they have said they want to do,” he said.
Asked whether the administration would cooperate with a United Nations inquiry into Mr. Aristide’s departure, Mr. Boucher replied: “That’s hypothetical at this point. We just don’t think it’s necessary.”
He was nonetheless upbeat about overall conditions in Haiti. “The government seems to be getting up and running,” he said. “Food deliveries have resumed around the country.”
Still, many problems persist. Armed resistance to American forces continues, although it is largely limited to an occasional exchange of gunfire or running a roadblock. The rebel forces, who took up arms against President Aristide, have largely faded from sight, though they have retained their weapons and could resurface.
Mr. Latortue struck a discordant note with American policy makers last week when he lauded the rebels as “freedom fighters” during a visit to his hometown of Gonaïves. Among those basking in the praise were Guy Philippe, a former police chief accused of plotting to overthrow Mr. Aristide, and Louis-Jodel Chamblain, convicted in absentia of murdering a Haitian businessman.
Aid is gradually flowing into Haiti, after the lifting of a freeze imposed by international lenders following disputed elections in 2000. Haiti cleared its arrears last year, paving the way for further lending.