By CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS
“There are inquiries being made by our judicial authorities in the U.S. to see if there is any evidence of wrongdoing on his part,” Mr. Powell said in a joint news conference with the new interim prime minister, Gérard Latortue.
Mr. Aristide went into exile in February after widespread violence and looting here. An American indictment against him on drug trafficking or other international charges would further inflame political tensions between those who contend that he was forced into exile by American troops and others, like Mr. Powell, who assert that the Americans saved his life.
Mr. Aristide, who was flown to the Central African Republic aboard an American-leased plane, has since returned to the region as an official guest of the government of Jamaica. The return of Mr. Aristide, a populist former priest, has unsettled Bush administration officials who are trying to establish security and bolster the authority of Mr. Latortue’s interim government.
To help maintain order in Haiti, the United States has sent 1,940 troops, the Pentagon says, France has sent more than 800, Canada more than 400 and Chile more than 300. Administration officials have said they expect to cap the American presence at about its present level, and would welcome 2,000 or 3,000 troops from other countries.
Mr. Powell, who came for a one-day visit to show the administration’s continuing commitment to Haiti’s recovery, opposed a request by the 15-nation Caribbean Community for the United Nations to investigate the terms of Mr. Aristide’s departure from Haiti.
“I don’t think any purpose would be served by such an inquiry,” he said. “We were on the verge of a blood bath and President Aristide found himself in great danger.”
The Caribbean Community nations have refused to recognize the Latortue government, causing considerable embarrassment to the Bush administration, which had counted on their cooperation for police training and security.
Mr. Powell, who toured a medical clinic here and posed for photographs with American troops, said, “I will be working hard to reintegrate Haiti in the Caribbean Community” in the weeks ahead.
Mr. Latortue, a former international business consultant, announced Monday that Haiti would hold parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005. He said he would set to work on establishing a provisional electoral council after Easter.
He expressed gratitude toward the United States even as he underscored the dire situation his country faces “The country is in a state of total bankruptcy,” he said. “The state is totally demolished.”
Mr. Powell said the Bush administration would provide $9 million to the Organization of American States to promote democratic practices, in addition to $55 million in aid for Haiti’s people for the current fiscal year. A donors’ conference is likely to be held by this summer to promote contributions from other nations and mulilateral lenders.
Mr. Powell urged Haitians to “seize this new chance to put this country firmly on the path to peace and development.”