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CRISIS IN THE CARIBBEAN : Aristide Tells U.N. His Goal Is Reconciliation Through Justice : Haiti: The exiled president reveals he has been in contact with wealthy families.

October 05, 1994|STANLEY MEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UNITED NATIONS — In a triumphant speech, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide pledged to the General Assembly on Tuesday that "we are going to prepare the coffee of reconciliation in the filter of justice" when he returns to Haiti in no less than 10 days.

"Yes to reconciliation! No to violence! No to vengeance! No to impunity! Yes to justice!" Aristide cried out to the applause of his supporters in the public galleries.

But the exiled Haitian president also made it clear that his spirit of reconciliation did not extend to the three coup leaders who ousted him three years ago and to those who are judged guilty of what he called crimes against humanity during the era of military rule.

Pleased with news reports that Lt. Col. Michel-Joseph Francois, the Port-au-Prince police chief, was en route to the Dominican Republic, Aristide told a news conference: "One of the three has already left. Let's hope the other two leave soon." Aristide was referring to Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the army commander, and Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby, the chief of staff.

The Haitian president also revealed that he had been in contact recently with rich Haitian families who have long opposed his return. "I have been in touch with some of them," he said, "and we have agreed that we must move toward a state of law, and that means a body of rules which we must abide by."

On the question of a general amnesty for those who took part in the coup that ousted him, Aristide repeated his longstanding position that those guilty of political crimes could be granted amnesty but that the Haitian constitution prohibits amnesty for those guilty of crimes against humanity.

Noting that an amnesty bill is now before the Chamber of Deputies in Port-au-Prince, Aristide said, "The Parliament is at work, and the president is awaiting its result to make his judgment." But he stressed that his decision whether to approve an amnesty bill would have to be made in accord with the constitution.

Aristide's pledge of reconciliation to the General Assembly was coupled with the promise of an ambitious program of reconstruction and development. By the year 2004, the 200th anniversary of Haiti's independence from France, his country, according to Aristide, will boast schooling for all children, a thousand doctors, the planting of 6 million trees a year, economic growth of 10% a year, a reformed system of justice, a civilian police force and, above all, an era of democracy.

The Haitian president, who said he would return to Haiti earlier than Oct. 15 if Cedras and Biamby joined Francois in fleeing, extended "a special thank you" to President Clinton for helping to restore him to power and told reporters that he was completely satisfied with the performance of the American troops in Haiti.

The mood of democratic promise was marred during the day, however, when officials of the Haitian mission to the United Nations forcibly removed a reporter from the news conference room because, they said, he had written anti-Aristide articles. The reporter, Franz Israel of the New York-based Haiti Observateur, was allowed to return only when the U.N. Correspondents Assn. threatened to cancel the session.

The news conference opened with an official protest by the association against the conduct of the mission. Aristide pleaded that he could not comment since he knew nothing about the incident. But, when pressed, he told reporters, "If everything depended on me, I would have said, in a word, let him come, because we have no right to oppose freedom of the press."

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