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Haiti's Aristide Accepts Plan To Appoint New PM

Aired February 21, 2004 - 14:07   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, now more on the late developments in Haiti.
The Associated Press is reporting that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has agreed to a peace plan for his country. The plan includes appointment of a new prime minister and government. It came during a meeting with the international team of mediators led by the United States seeking a way to ease tensions in the turmoil in that nation.

On now to our Lucia Newman, who is covering the developments there, and she joins us now -- Lucia.


Indeed, President Aristide did say that he would agree to all the points presented to him by this multinational delegation, which includes envoys not only from the United States, but also Canada, France, the Caribbean nations, the Organization of American States, and also the EU.

The points also include the possibility of appointing a new cabinet that is multi-partied as well as disarming the groups of thugs that are causing havoc all over around the country, thugs on both sides of the political spectrum.

But the opposition has said, Fredricka, that under no circumstances will it agree to any kind of an agreement that does not include President Aristide stepping down (UNINTELLIGIBLE). In other words, we will not accept new elections of any sort, no matter what the guarantees, as long as President Aristide remains in the palace.

So right now there is a deadlock, although the delegation of international envoys is meeting at this moment with opposition leaders to see if they can persuade them to change their mind, Fredricka

WHITFIELD: But Lucia, doesn't make himself more vulnerable to perhaps being forced to step down with a new prime minister and with a new government?

NEWMAN: The idea of having a new prime minister -- it's not a new government, it's a new cabinet that's being talked about.

He would remain as the president, and that's the whole problem. The opposition doesn't want to consider any proposal that doesn't start with the resignation of the president, and the president has made it very clear he won't leave until his mandate is up in the year 2006.

He is willing to now oversee a government that's more pluralistic, that includes the opposition, but not leave as president, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Lucia Newman joining us from Port-au- Prince, Haiti.

Well, what options does the U.S. have in trying to help resolve the crisis in Haiti to take it another step forward? And what about the Americans that are in Haiti right now?

William B. Jones is the former U.S. ambassador to Haiti. He comes to us from Los Angeles.

Good to see you, Mr. Ambassador.


WHITFIELD: All right.

Well, the U.S. is trying to be involved to a certain distance. Secretary of State Colin Powell has made it very clear that the U.S. government would in no way try to force President Aristide to step down, especially since he was democratically elected. But now it looks like some concessions are being made with, as Lucia was describing, a new cabinet and new prime minister.

So how delicate a balance is this being made for President Aristide now?

JONES: Well, it's very, very delicate, but I think it is absolutely the right process that should be developed.

I so think that President Aristide should be convinced to have a government of -- a new government of reconciliation. And I think that discussions should continue with the opposition, and I think in the long run they probably will go along with it, too.

So I think this is a very positive development. I think first you try to establish stability, then security, then you have to address the humanitarian needs.

WHITFIELD: Well, let's talk about how you go about doing that. The U.S. has made it clear that it would send forces there, military forces to help secure the U.S. embassy, but that might be the extent of it. Haiti has no army. Who in the world is going be doing the policing there if the U.S. military or some other allied forces don't take a more aggressive approach?

JONES: Well, I know the U.S. embassy very well, and it certainly does need to be secured.

There has to be some sort of a multinational security force developed to provide security in the country. The police force in Haiti is totally inadequate. It only has about 4,000 men. They're not particularly well trained and they tend to go whichever the way the wind blows. So I think there has to be an international umbrella in Haiti and it has to be a multinational security force. I do not think that the United States should act unilaterally.

WHITFIELD: Some 20,000 Americans who have been there for various reasons, humanitarian and the like, are now on their way out. What kind of message is this sending to the international community in terms of Haiti waiving the flag that it does need some help?

JONES: Well, obviously, Haiti needs help, but first of all, you must preserve human life. And I think it is prudent for Americans and other foreigners to leave the country so long as it's dangerous and so long as there's the threat of chaos.

But as I said, I think you have to have a multinational security force. I think the Haitian police can play a major role, but they have to have supervision and direction. So I think that there has to be a concerted effort to re-establish the rule of law in the country.

WHITFIELD: Most of the violence has been reported in the north of the country. Can you give us a sense as to why that is? What makes the north more vulnerable than other portions of that country?

JONES: Well, Aristide support was traditionally in the south, among the poorest people, around Port-Au-Price in the southern part of the country.

The north has always had -- marched to a slightly different drummer. Haiti is a country where you've long had a north-south division. You must remember that in Haiti, most of the people are quite poor. They don't travel around, so that the people who live in the north tend to stay in the north. So there is a north-south division, and the north has never really supported Aristide as he was supported in the south.

WHITFIELD: And it -- most recently, a Socialist leader is demanding that Aristide step down. At what point will he have to concede to pressure, or will he need to stand his ground in order to maintain or find some control for that country?

JONES: Well, the essence of Haiti is to convince them to compromise. Compromise is not a necessary part of the Haitian culture. But I think that you have to convince them that it is in their self-interest to compromise, and I think that all parties in this problem must be willing to compromise.

WHITFIELD: All right. Former Ambassador to Haiti William B. Jones. Thanks very much for joining us from Los Angeles.

JONES: Thank you very much for having me.


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