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Murder of Aristide Supporter Increases Chance of Invasion

By Norman Kempster
Los Angeles Times

The Clinton administration said Monday that the assassination in Port-au-Prince of a prominent supporter of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide sharply increases the probability of a U.S.-led invasion of Haiti to restore democracy to the impoverished Caribbean nation.

"Make no mistake, outrages such as these reinforce the determination of the international community to take all necessary means to bring about the early restoration of democracy in Haiti," State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said, employing diplomatic language for the use of military force.

McCurry referred to the killing Sunday night of Rev. Jean-Marie Vincent, a Roman Catholic priest and a longtime supporter of Aristide, himself a populist priest who was deposed by the military after winning the only internationally recognized free and fair presidential election in Haiti's history.

In a statement issued from his exile headquarters in Washington, Aristide said Vincent's death was only the latest of over 5,000 murders committed by the military since it seized power in September 1991.

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Deputy Defense Secretary John Deutch headed for Jamaca and a meeting Tuesday of Caribbean nations to discuss ways of dealing with the Haitian military junta. U.S. officials said Talbott and Deutch hope to line up governments willing to contribute at least token forces to a U.S.-led invasion.

McCurry dismissed as baseless speculation a spate of reports that the administration, beset by a Cuban refugee crisis, had shifted to the back burner the planning for a Haiti invasion, postponing the earliest possible date from mid-September to sometime in the late fall.

"The planning has continued," McCurry said. "The diplomacy to build the force that would be capable of (invading) has continued. We prefer to see a peaceful resolution to this crisis. But events such as the murder of an innocent cleric and the types of human rights abuses that continue do lend urgency to the need to put together those measures that are defined by the United Nations in Security Council Resolution 940," which authorizes the use of force.

"We do expect to see support within the region," he added, insisting that several Western Hemisphere countries will join the potential invasion force, even though none have yet announced plans to do so."