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Administration denies aristide kidnapped { March 1 2004 }

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Administration Denies Aristide Kidnapped
Monday March 1, 2004 8:01 PM


Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House, Pentagon and State Department on Monday denied allegations Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was kidnapped by U.S. forces eager for him to resign and be spirited into exile.

With U.S. military forces already on the ground in the Caribbean nation and more on the way, chief presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said, ``It's nonsense, and conspiracy theories do nothing to help the Haitian people move forward to a better more free, more prosperous future.''

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also vehemently denied that Aristide had been forced out by the United States. And Secretary of State Colin Powell forcefully dismissed the allegation as well, saying Aristide boarded the plane willingly.

McClellan told reporters that Aristide left on his own free will. ``We took steps to protect Mr. Aristide and his family so they would not be harmed as they departed Haiti,'' he said.

Rumsfeld, at a Pentagon news conference, said he was involved in the diplomatic flurry preceding Aristide's departure, and said ``the idea that someone was abducted is inconsistent with everything I saw. I don't believe that's true, that he's claiming that. I would be absolutely amazed if that were the case.''

An African-American activist, Randall Robinson, said Aristide told him on the phone Monday that he had been kidnapped at gunpoint by American soldiers and ousted in a U.S. coup d'etat. Aristide said he was being held prisoner at the Renaissance Palace in Bangui, Central African Republic, Robinson said.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., told CNN that when he spoke with Aristide Monday morning, the exiled Haitian leader told him that the international community had let him down - ``that he was kidnapped, that he resigned under pressure, that he was taken to a central African country.''

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., told CNN that she talked on the phone with Aristide's wife, Mildred, who said that Aristide was ``forced to leave his home.'' Waters said an embassy official told Aristide that he ``had to go now - that if he didn't go he would be killed and a lot of Haitians would be killed.''

Powell said flatly, ``He was not kidnapped,'' and criticized U.S. congressmen for saying that Aristide had been, without checking with the Bush administration first to see what the story was.

``He was not kidnapped. We did not force him on the airplane. He went on the plane willingly,'' Powell said.

The secretary said Aristide wrote a letter of resignation and only then did the United States bring an airplane to help him leave the country.

McClellan said Aristide's aides had contacted the U.S. ambassador to Haiti on Saturday and asked if Aristide would be given protection by the United States if he resigned. The ambassador consulted with Washington, then called Aristide's aides and told them that if Aristide decided to resign, the United States ``would facilitate his departure,'' McClellan said. ``And we did.''

The United States arranged for a plane to fly to Haiti to pick up Aristide, he said, adding that the aircraft arrived about 4:30 a.m., local time. Aristide went to the airport in the company of his own personal security guards, the spokesman said.

Asked directly if Aristide left of his own free will, McClellan said, ``Yes.''

Rumsfeld estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 U.S. troops would go to Haiti for a ``relatively short period.'' He said they would be part of an interim stabilization force that could include up to 5,000 troops from several countries, who would stay until replaced by a U.N. peacekeeping force.

``It's wrong to think of Haiti as primarily as a military problem,'' said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefing reporters with Rumsfeld. ``This is work that could be done by well-trained police forces.''

Myers said 800 to 1,000 Haitans had been returned to their country in recent days after being picked up trying to flee over the water.

Rumsfeld, citing intelligence and embassy reports, said looting and crime were down in the last few days.

Aristide apparently reconsidered his initial decision not to step down after learning over the weekend that the United States would not protect him, an administration official said on condition of anonymity.

Guards from Aristide's security team, employed by the San Francisco-based Steele Foundation, asked the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince on Saturday whether they could count on American protection in the event of rebel hostilities at the presidential palace, the official said. Aristide's guards were told that no such protection would be provided, the official said.

Powell called former Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Calif., whom Aristide hired as a Washington lobbyist, the official said, and told him that the United States had no plans to protect Aristide.

At 1:30 a.m. EST Sunday, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice called President Bush to inform him that Aristide was resigning, McClellan said. Bush then called Rumsfeld to authorize deployment of the Marines.

The crisis in Haiti has been growing since Aristide's party won flawed legislative elections in 2000, and international donors froze millions of dollars in aid. Opponents said Aristide broke promises to help the poor, permitted corruption that was fueled by drug trafficking and was behind attacks that armed gangs made on his critics. Aristide, who was once backed by the United States, had denied these charges.

As the Marines flew to Haiti late Sunday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to authorize the immediate deployment of an international military force in Haiti for three months. The Marines are being joined by soldiers from France, Canada and several Caribbean nations.

An additional 50 Marines, members of an anti-terrorist security team, had already been in Port-au-Prince for several days helping secure the U.S. Embassy and other buildings. The U.S. Coast Guard also has been on duty picking up Haitians trying to flee the violence, and returning them home.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

Administration denies aristide kidnapped { March 1 2004 }
Administration dismisses rumors that us kidnapped aristide { March 1 2004 }
Aristide accuses us of forcing his ouster
Aristide back in caribbean details coup by us { March 16 2004 }
Aristide denies formal resignation plans return
Aristide kidnapped at gunpoint { March 1 2004 }
Haiti interim pm hits out at jamaica for taking aristide { March 17 2004 }
Haitian first democratically elected president resigns
Ousted haitian president aristide claims he was kidnapped
Us troops made aristide leave { March 1 2004 }

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