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Aristide Thanks U.S., Urges End to Violence : Leadership: Haitian president bows to pressure but balks at praising pact designed to restore him to power.

September 22, 1994|PAUL RICHTER and ELIZABETH SHOGREN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — Succumbing to American pressure, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide publicly called Wednesday for an end to the bloody clashes between police and his supporters, and he finally thanked President Clinton for the 3-day-old agreement designed to restore him to power.

Greeted at the Pentagon with flattering pomp and circumstance--a full-dress ceremony highlighted by the 21-gun salute due a head of state--Aristide urged Haitians to say "no to violence, no to vengeance; yes to reconciliation, yes to justice."

He added: "Continue to uphold democracy, be vigilant, and guard against provocation."

President Clinton, shaken by television footage of Haitian police battering demonstrators Tuesday, joined Aristide's exhortations with a blunt warning.

Clinton said he strongly condemned the police violence that killed at least one person and said the United States will not tolerate such behavior.

The statements from Clinton and Aristide were designed not only for a Haitian audience but also to quiet an outcry from Congress, where members of both houses have sharply criticized Aristide for a near-silence that they said showed ingratitude and hurt efforts to calm Haiti.

Aristide's public appeal came after an intensifying campaign by Administration officials--described by one Aristide associate as a "firestorm"--to pressure the Haitian president to try to calm his country.

Aristide had been impressed, officials said, by briefings on the Administration's newly implemented plans to begin in some circumstances to restrain and disarm the Haitian police.

Those plans made at least a short step toward meeting Aristide's demands that U.S. forces intervene directly to halt police misconduct and begin disarming the army and police.

Yet Aristide continued to snub urgings that he praise the agreement itself--saying, in fact, nothing about the pact to replace Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras with Aristide's own government by Oct. 15.

In its ceremony at the Pentagon, the Administration went the full length to display the extent of U.S. commitment to Aristide.

The ceremony, called the "cordon of honor," includes the playing of the national anthems of both countries before a military guard and the firing of a row of cannons.

The occasion drew to the ceremonial dais an unusually large crew of Administration figures, including Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake.

The ceremony is often held out of public view, as it was last month when Perry welcomed China's third-ranking army officer, Deputy Chief of Staff Xu Huizi, to the Pentagon.

But on this occasion, a White House aide said, "we wanted to make sure people saw it here--and in Haiti too."

The latest attempt to twist Aristide's arm occurred after the ceremony, in a 50-minute session in which the Haitian president heard Perry, Lake and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. John M. Shalikashvili lead a multimedia presentation on the situation in Haiti and the unfolding U.S. deployment there.

Aristide sat silently in a conference room called the "tank" as he heard Perry call the police violence unacceptable and ask, once again, for a public statement from him.

After the presentations, Aristide read a brief statement thanking Clinton and U.S. soldiers involved in the Haiti operation.

"President Clinton . . . this is the result of your leadership. Thank you and the people of the United States for your commitment to lead a multinational effort in carrying out the will of the United Nations to help restore democracy to Haiti," he said.

Administration aides said that in their conversations with Aristide over the last two days, officials have tried to "simply persuade him that he needs to do the right thing."

But they have also bluntly pointed out his dependence on them--not only during the next three weeks, but in the years to follow, when his nation's weak economy may depend heavily on what it can get in U.S. aid.

U.S. officials said Aristide was clearly impressed by the officials' description of the plans for deployment of military police.

He was also pleased, according to aides, that U.S. officials plan to start meeting with his designated defense minister to make arrangements for running the nation once Aristide resumes power.

But he expressed concerns about the proposal, still being debated by U.S. officials, to ban demonstrations in Haiti. And, according to associates, he is reserving judgment on the value of new interpretations of the rules of engagement in Haiti that will allow U.S. troops to intervene to prevent police abuses.

In his talks with U.S. officials, Aristide's top goals have been to persuade them to speed up their timetable for the disarmament of the Haitian military and to expand the role of the U.S. troops to prevent the Haitian military from committing violence against the Haitian people.

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