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Aristide Calls for Embargo of Haiti to Force out Military

By Julia Preston
The Washington Post


Exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide called Thursday for a "total embargo" of Haiti, by air as well as sea, to force out recalcitrant military leaders and allow his return.

In an address to the General Assembly and in comments to reporters, Aristide said the July 3 accord signed with military commander Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras remains in effect -- even if the president cannot reassume his post in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, as the pact stipulates. He called on his prime minister, Robert Malval, to continue in his uneasy position.

Aristide's remarks made clear that he does not intend to return to Haiti as long as his military enemies are in control but expects the United States and other allies to wage a protracted battle to revive Haitian democracy. Efforts in Port-au-Prince to carry out the U.N.-initiated agreement have foundered in the face of the military command's refusal to resign.

"The accord will always be viable. We believe in it and the United Nations believes in it. It is up to those who violated it to yield," Aristide said.

Under the accord signed on Governors Island, N.Y., Cedras and police chief Col. Joseph Michel Francois, who led a 1991 coup ousting Aristide, should have stepped down by Oct. 15. But they balked, demanding that Haiti's Parliament enact a broad amnesty for all coup participants before they will relinquish power. Parliament has failed to muster a quorum.

Aristide pledged Thursday to summon the Parliament to pass an amnesty law immediately after Cedras and Francois step down. He said only that the law would be consistent with Haiti's constitution, declining to clarify whether he would accept a pardon that would shelter military leaders from criminal prosecution as well as from punishment for political crimes.

Alluding to another military demand, Aristide said he would "open the door" to politicians opposing him once Cedras and Francois are removed. Sounding generally conciliatory, Aristide called repeatedly on Haitians to "say no to revenge." Despite U.S. pressure, he did not specify whether or how he would include opposition members in his government.

The exiled president dismissed Cedras's amnesty demands as "mere delaying tactics." Aristide has already complied with his obligations under the accord by issuing a presidential decree freeing military leaders from prosecution for their role in the coup.

Many military officers as well as paramilitary "attaches," gunmen who have terrorized the streets of the capital, have said they fear lynching by pro-Aristide mobs if they give up power.

Aristide asked the United Nations to embargo all trade with Haiti, to be "enforced by sea and air." This would make globally binding the regional and voluntary sanctions adopted by the Organization of American States earlier this month. Currently a U.N. embargo prohibits shipment of most petroleum products and arms but allows food and medicine. It is enforced by U.S. and other picket ships.

Aristide said it would be up to the Security Council to determine whether the sanctions should halt commercial air travel. The council said Monday it is ready to impose wider sanctions but it is not expected to act until after the Oct. 30 deadline expires.

As with the current sanctions, the new measures would allow Aristide and Malval to request any exemptions they want, so the United Nations could avoid castigating the government it is working to support. Malval took office in Haiti in September but the military has blocked him from effective control.

During the day, about 3,000 pro-Aristide Haitians clogged the streets of mid-town Manhattan in a boisterous demonstration. A group seeking to block the thoroughfare in front of Grand Central Station scuffled with police, and several arrests were made.