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Aristide Says U.S. Forced Him to Leave

The World

The Bush administration denies charges by the exiled Haitian president that he was a victim of a 'modern kidnapping.' Some at the U.N. are uneasy.

March 02, 2004|Paul Richter and Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writers

Powell said the first call received by U.S. officials mid-evening was from Aristide's hired security force. "And there was a question about their ability to continue protecting him."

Powell said that this led to Aristide asking U.S. officials about "the possibility of departure," and whether the Americans would protect his property and the property of his ministers, and whether they would allow him to choose where he might go.

"We gave him answers to these questions, positive answers," Powell said.

After he spoke to his wife, Aristide again contacted Powell and his aides, and said it was his decision "based on what his security people were also telling him about the deteriorating situation, that he should leave," Powell said. "He went onto the airplane willingly. And that's the truth."

Powell added that "it would have been better for members of Congress who have heard these stories to ask us about the stories, before going public with them, so that we don't make a difficult situation that much more difficult."

But Congressional Black Caucus members criticized Powell for failing to divulge discussions concerning Aristide's personal safety sooner. Rangel said that over the weekend, he and other lawmakers "were in constant communication with Secretary Powell by phone. And this information about Aristide asking to leave the country and that his life was in danger was never shared with us."

One congressman said he worried that the other lawmakers' charges could have a dangerous effect in Haiti.

"They could be inflicting more violence in Haiti by saying that we stole their process," said Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.). "It's reckless and disturbing."

There have been hints that Aristide supporters might want to continue to direct political activity in Haiti even after his departure.

On Sunday night in Port-au-Prince, the exiled president's spokesman, Jonas Petit, urged members of Aristide's Lavalas Party in a radio broadcast to remain mobilized. He said Aristide had been ousted in an American-organized coup.

Aristide is known for his skill at using the international news media to his political advantage. In his interview with CNN, he said he would be "very delighted" to come to the U.S. to "tell the truth" about what had been inflicted on him by Washington.

Meanwhile, some members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the TransAfrica Forum, an advocacy group, urged congressional hearings to investigate what happened in the course of Aristide's resignation.

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Times staff writers John Hendren in Washington, Carol J. Williams in Haiti and Regine Labossiere in Los Angeles contributed to this article.

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