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CRISIS IN THE CARIBBEAN : Haiti's Ruling Generals Are Given a Hint: Leave : Caribbean: U.S. has been using carrots and sticks--offers of comfortable exile and threats of arrest--to push Cedras and Biamby out. They have until Oct. 15.

October 06, 1994|DOYLE McMANUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials said Wednesday that they expect Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras to step down before the deadline of Oct. 15, but they have warned the Haitian strongman--just in case--that he will be arrested by American troops if he tries to stay in power.

"If he's still behind his desk, we'll arrest him," one senior official said.

Officials said they have seen increasing signs that Cedras will retire and leave Haiti entirely.

"His interest in staying is declining," one aide said.

But Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby, Cedras' chief of staff, is another story.

Biamby is "a tough nut to crack," one official said. "We just don't know what he is going to do."

An agreement negotiated by former President Jimmy Carter on Sept. 18 requires both military commanders to step down by Oct. 15, but does not explicitly call on them to leave the country.

The United States has been using a combination of carrots and sticks--offers of comfortable exile and threats of arrest and trial--to push the generals toward the door.

"We have ways to make it uncomfortable for them, if they stay," one official said, noting that the generals will probably be vulnerable to arrest and trial.

Moreover, the U.S. military has been arresting many of the generals' close aides to make it more difficult for the military leaders to maintain a political machine.

If the generals decide to leave, he noted, the United States is willing to provide both protection and transportation to Panama or any other country where they would be welcome.

Officials said they want the generals out of Haiti to prevent them from attempting to organize military or political resistance to the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the United States is restoring to power.

U.S. officials were pleased that Lt. Col. Michel-Joseph Francois, chief of police in Haiti's capital, fled the country this week for the neighboring Dominican Republic. But they were embarrassed that Francois was held up at the border overnight by a bureaucratic foul-up--a humiliation that might stiffen Cedras and Biamby's reluctance to leave.

Officials also said they are trying to persuade Aristide, who is still living in exile in Washington, to support a broad amnesty that would absolve most military and police officers for their actions under the Cedras regime. The Administration's theory is that such an amnesty will make it easier to win cooperation from the remaining officers.

But Aristide has said he seeks only a narrow amnesty that would allow his government to prosecute officers for human rights abuses against civilians.

In an unusual stratagem, President Clinton recruited visiting South African President Nelson Mandela to lobby Aristide for a softer line. At a news conference with Mandela, Clinton said the meeting would be "the most important thing South Africa can do for Haiti."

By looking at South Africa, where Mandela allowed most military officers to remain, "the Haitian people will see that you can bring a country where there have been deep, even bloody, divisions together and work together in a spirit of freedom, reconciliation, democracy and mutual respect," Clinton said.

Former President Carter is also in frequent telephone contact with both Cedras and Aristide and talked with both leaders Wednesday, sources said.

Clinton and Defense Secretary William J. Perry said Wednesday that they look forward to bringing home some of the U.S. troops in Haiti but admitted that they cannot say when.

"An issue that has come up frequently on Haiti is, 'How many (troops) and how long?' " Perry said at a news conference. "I cannot give a crisp, clear answer to that."

He said the number of U.S. troops in Haiti, now more than 17,000, should drop to 15,000 by the end of this month and to 6,000 by March. After that, officials said, other U.N. forces will join the Americans, allowing U.S. forces to drop to 2,000 by the end of 1995.

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