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Clinton Administration Delays Haiti Intervention Until Fall

By Kenneth Freed
and Doyle McManus

Los Angeles Times

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

Despite a steady drumbeat of threats aimed at frightening Haitian military leaders out of power, the Clinton administration has set aside any plan for armed intervention until September at the earliest, U.S. and foreign officials said Tuesday.

The main reason is practical, the officials said: The U.N. force that would be needed to provide order on the island after U.S. troops come ashore will not be ready before the fall.

At the same time, administration officials noted, Democratic leaders in Congress have asked President Clinton to hold off, expressing fears that the American public is not yet convinced that an invasion is justified.

"I don't think we're talking months," a senior U.S. official said when asked how long the option of military action was being delayed, "but weeks, sure." Asked if that meant that no invasion was likely before September, he nodded affirmatively.

In Washington, a State Department official involved in Haiti policy said it is becoming clear that no military action would be launched in August.

And in Jerusalem, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said he was willing to wait for some time before recommending an invasion.

The officials' estimates conflicted with the administration's own public threats against the regime of Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the military leader who overthrew Haiti's elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991.

Only a week ago, in Berlin, Clinton said that the Cedras regime's continued existence is intolerable. But even while he is keeping the military option ostentatiously on the table, Clinton still hopes that Cedras will decide to leave without an armed confrontation, the officials said.

Diplomats in the Haitian capital said the main factor delaying military action is the inability of the United States and its key allies to assemble an international force to handle peacekeeping duties on the island after any invasion.