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Clinton Says He's Determined To Restore Haitian Democracy

By Saul Friedman and Martin Kasindorf
Newsday

WASHINGTON

President Clinton Thursday reasserted his determination to restore democracy to tumultuous Haiti, vowing to enforce United Nations sanctions and take separate U.S. measures to return Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from his Washington exile.

Clinton, who withdrew a ship with 216 American and Canadian soldiers from Haiti Tuesday after a police-backed mob blocked its landing, told a White House news conference: "The people in Haiti would be sadly misguided if they think the United States has weakened its resolve."

Asked if he plans a naval blockade forcing Haitian military leaders into honoring a U.N.-brokered agreement to step down and allow Aristide's return, Clinton said he had to be "careful" in using the word "blockade" because it is "associated with a declaration of war." The remark was widely interpreted as hinting some other sort of sea patrol or monitoring of Haitian ports.

Pentagon sources said no maritime operation was being planned, but a State Department official said the United States would draft a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution providing for searches of Haiti-bound ships for contraband with the permission of their countries of ownership.

Clinton said he favors "strongly" enforcing the Security Council's Wednesday vote to reimpose an arms and oil embargo and a worldwide freeze on foreign assets of Haiti's elite.

The international sanctions, first adopted in June and credited with bringing Haitian strongman Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras to a Governor's Island parley in New York, were dropped after the now-endangered deal was made July 3. Sanctions would take effect Monday if Cedras fails to step down Friday and continue to indicate that Aristide will not be allowed to return by Oct. 30.

A State Department source said the administration intends to suspend visitors' visas and freeze U.S. bank accounts of about 40 Haitians supporting the leaders of the 1991 coup that overthrew Aristide. The move would be a partial revival of a June order that blocked U.S. business and property transactions by 83 Haitian individuals and 35 institutions. Clinton also warned Haiti's police and military commanders against harming Aristide's appointed prime minister, Robert Malval.

Explaining his pullback of the transport ship Harlan County, Clinton said the military construction workers and medics on board were untrained to deal with a "potentially dangerous situation."