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Clinton Wins Caribbean Support to Invade Haiti

By Norman Kempster and Stanley Meisler
Los Angeles Times

The Clinton administration won rhetorical backing from Caribbean republics Tuesday for an invasion of Haiti, but came away virtually empty in its attempt to sign up allies for military action to restore ousted Pesident Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.

"Our governments are equally united in their determination to take all necessary means to carry out the (U.N.) Security Council mandate to restore the democratic process in Haiti," U.S. and Caribbean officials said in a joint statement issued after a meeting in Kingston, Jamaica.

But only four of the 11 member countries of the Caribbean Community agreed to contribute troops and they said that together they could supply only a single company - 266 soldiers - to a U.S.-led invasion force that is expected to total 10,000 or more, according to news agency accounts from the Jamaican capital.

Although U.S. officials say they still hope to resolve the issue peacefully, they admit that an invasion is becoming increasingly likely. At the United Nations, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali admitted failure Tuesday in a last-ditch attempt to persuade the military government of Lt. Gen. Raul Cedras to step aside in favor of Aristide, who was deposed in a bloody coup in September 1991.

Boutros-Ghali informed the Security Council in a closed meeting that his special mission had failed and that he would do no more for now. "The initiative has not been successful," he told reporters afterward.

The U.S. government sent a high-ranking delegation, led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Deputy Defense Secretary John Deutch, to Kingston in an effort to assure the United States of at least token international participation if it decides to go ahead with an invasion.

Talbott and Deutch are scheduled to return to Washington Wednesday after an overnight trip to the Dominican Republic to inspect the porous Dominican-Haitian border and to urge the authorities in Santo Domingo to crack down on cross-border smuggling. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispanola.

Jamaica, Trinidad-Tobago, Barbados and Belize agreed to contribute troops, although Jamaican Foreign Minister Paul Robertson told a news conference that the total Caribbean contribution would be "a light company, approximately 266 troops."

Robertson said Bahamas and Guyana were considering joining the force but had made no final decision.

Despite the tiny size of the Caribbean contribution, Talbott called the meeting "a watershed" because it guaranteed the United States at least some foreign participation. The four countries were the first to make a firm commitment to send troops.

Deutch said the Pentagon will begin at once to give the Caribbean contingent U.S. logistic support.

"The time for action has arrived," Deutch said. "There can be no doubt in anybody's mind that the multinational force is going to Haiti."

Those words seemed to predict an imminent invasion but Deutch explained that a multinational army will be needed in Haiti in any event, either to invade and force out Cedras or to help maintain order if the military government gives way peacefully.

But U.S. officials said that with the failure of the U.N. effort, the chances of a peaceful resolution of the crisis were fast running out.

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Boutros-Ghali had dispatched an aide, Rolf Knutsson, to meet with intermediaries in the Dominican Republic last week to find out if the Haitian officers would accept a high-level U.N. mission to discuss their departure and the return of Aristide, the winner of the only internationally certified free and fair election in the republic's history.

But the intermediaries, according to Alvaro de Sota, a senior political adviser to the secretary-general, informed Knutsson that such a mission would be allowed to meet only with the civilian officials installed by the military as a puppet government.

De Sota told reporters that the Haitians also proposed a far different agenda for a meeting. They wanted to discuss a variety of issues, but not not their resignations.

Boutros-Ghali told reporters that he will suspend his initiative unless he receives orders from the Security Council to do otherwise or he is informed of a "drastic change" in the attitude of Cedras.

Cedras had agreed to give up his command of the army under an agreement that he and Aristide signed on Governors Island off the tip of Manhattan more than a year ago. But he later reneged on the deal.