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Haitian Rebels Enter Capital While Aristide Criticizes U.S.

By Tim Weiner

and Lydia Polgreen

The New York Times -- PORT-AU-PRINCE

Armed rebels swept into this capital on Monday and occupied national police headquarters, staking a claim to power as U.S. Marines secured the international airport and the presidential palace.

It was far from clear on Monday who was in charge, although the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Boniface Alexandre, was sworn in Sunday as the leader of a transitional government until elections in 2005. Under Haiti’s Constitution, the legislature is supposed to ratify Alexandre’s succession, and there is no legislature, owing to the breakdown of the government.

The deposed president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, landed in a temporary exile in the Central African Republic. He said that he was overthrown by the United States, a claim dismissed as “complete nonsense” by the White House.

At the White House on Monday, President Bush convened a meeting of the National Security Council to develop a plan for a multinational peacekeeping force to take over from the Marines within a few months.

France and Canada have pledged to help fill out a multinational force with police functions. The United States is also discussing contributions from Caribbean nations, as well as from Brazil, Chile and Argentina, officials said.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Monday that an international force would help install a “responsive, functioning, noncorrupt” government.

He also said the armed rebel leaders include “individuals we would not want to see re-enter civil society in Haiti because of their past records, and this is something we will have to work through.”

The rebels, followed by throngs of cheering, armed supporters, also occupied the former headquarters of the Haitian army, vowing to revive the military, a force known for brutality. Several of the armed rebels were affiliated with the Haitian military or with armed gangs that have terrorized Haiti.

A wave of several thousand dancing, cheering people following the rebel leaders rounded Port-au-Prince’s main boulevard to the palace minutes after the rebels occupied police headquarters.

At least four men identified by witnesses as supporters of the deposed president were found shot dead on the edge of town, three of them bound at the wrists.

Haiti’s army overthrew Aristide in 1991 and ran a violent junta until 1994. U.S. armed forces reinstated the president, who then disbanded the Haitian military.

Now that he is gone, the army may be back. In the rebels’ ranks at the old army headquarters was Paul Arcelin, 60, who identified himself as a former ambassador to the Dominican Republic and “an adviser to the Haitian army.”

“This is our headquarters,” he said. “The army has come back. We don’t need peacekeepers.”

Powell told CNN: “We have ways of talking to the various rebel leaders. And I am pleased that at least so far they said they are not interested in violence any more, and they want to put down their arms.”

They did not put down their guns on Monday.

Two rebel leaders, Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former death-squad member and convicted assassin, and Guy Philippe, a former police chief, did thank the United States for moving to secure Haiti after the fall of Aristide.