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Security Council Help Sought As Haiti Worsens

Caricom, Haiti Appeal To Security Council For Help As Haitian Security Worsens

Given its long record of deploying peacekeeping missions, the United Nations has a special responsibility to help Haiti during a rapidly deteriorating political and security crisis, Jamaican Foreign Minister Keith D. Knight told the United Nations Security Council today.

"The situation we now face is completely different from that which began as a political impasse over exercise of rights and the role of opposition forces," he said in an address on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which requested the Council meeting. "The more recent incursions by heavily armed 'rebel' forces from the north have resulted reprisal killings, the destruction of property and general lawlessness, creating a state of anarchy in much of the country."

The Foreign Minister also recalled Jamaican Prime Minister Patterson's call, in a letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan last week, for immediate action to safeguard democracy and avert bloodshed and a humanitarian disaster.

The potential for further chaos is not only a threat to the peace and security of the region, but must be of great concern to the international community, he told the 15-member Council. "It is against this background that the Member States of the CARICOM Community seek the direct and immediate intervention of the United Nations in Haiti," Mr. Knight said. "The situation is one of utmost urgency and the need for decisive action is paramount."

He welcomed Mr. Annan's proposal to name a Special Advisor to coordinate and promote greater UN engagement in dealing with the current crisis and called on the Council to authorize the urgent deployment of a multinational force to assist in the restoration of law and order, to facilitate a return to stability and to create an environment that will foster a political solution.

CARICOM, which has 15 members and five associate members, along with the Organization of American States (OAS), has been mediating between Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the opposition. They have proposed such confidence-building measures as disarming armed groups, setting rules for demonstrations, strengthening the police force and establishing a transitional government of national unity and an Electoral Commission.

Mr. Aristide has accepted the plan, so long as he can serve out his term, which ends in 2006, but the opposition has rejected it.

Addressing the Council meeting, which had some 30 representatives on the speaker's list, Haitian Ambassador Jean C. Alexandre said the armed opposition had carried out summary executions and released convicts sentenced for violent crimes and drug trafficking.

He urged the Council to reiterate its condemnation of the violence, its rejection of any new government taking power through an anti-democratic, unconstitutional process and its demand that the Haitian opposition accept a political compromise.

Frederick A. Mitchell, foreign minister of the Bahamas, which is also a CARICOM member, said anecdotal evidence indicated that the insurgents were controlling half of the country.

"The reality is that a nation with 8 million people, no military and a police force of just over 4,000 meant that government authority was thin on the ground," he said.

If the international community refuses to act quickly, "we will be condoning a creeping attempt to overthrow the Government of Haiti by force," Mr. Mitchell said, noting that there are 32 previous examples of the dislodging former Haitian heads of State in Haiti in this manner.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, meanwhile, sent a letter to the Council outlining a proposal "that broadens the CARICOM plan."

Its requirements would include the "immediate establishment of a civilian peacekeeping force," international aid in preparing for new elections, the delivery of humanitarian aid and the dispatch of human rights observers to Haiti, according to the letter, which was made public at the UN today.

"As for President Aristide, he bears heavy responsibility for the current situation. It is up to him to accept the consequences while respecting the rule of law. It is his decision; it is his responsibility," Mr. de Villepin said.

Enslaved Africans overthrew the French colonial government in Haiti 200 years ago.

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