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Administration dismisses rumors that us kidnapped aristide { March 1 2004 }

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March 1, 2004
Administration Dismisses Rumors That U.S. Kidnapped Aristide

The Bush administration ridiculed any suggestion today that former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti had been spirited out of his country under force by the United States military.

"That's nonsense," President Bush's chief spokesman, Scott McClellan, said at the White House. "Conspiracy theories do nothing to help the Haitian people move forward to a better, more free and more prosperous future."

Mr. McClellan and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were both asked about Mr. Aristide's departure. Asked at a Pentagon news briefing if Mr. Aristide had been "virtually kidnapped," Mr. Rumsfeld grinned broadly for several seconds. "I'm trying to pick the right words," he said in evident disdain for the premise behind the question.

Questions about the circumstances of Mr. Aristide's departure from Haiti, where he quit the presidency on Sunday amid widespread civil unrest, arose as he was on his way to refuge in the Central African Republic, where was last reported to be.

Representatives Charles Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California, both Democrats, along with the head of the TransAfrica advocacy group, Randall Robinson, said today that Mr. Aristide had told them that he was abducted and a victim of a coup led by the United States.

Ms. Waters said today that she had spoken by telephone with Mr. Aristide, and that he had told her that he had been forced to leave his house. Ms. Waters gave that account in an interview with CNN as Mr. Rumsfeld was holding a news briefing at the Pentagon.

Ms. Waters said Mr. Aristide had told her that armed men had confronted him and told him that he "he had to go, and he had to go now." Whereupon, she said, he was taken to an airplane along with his wife, Mildred, a brother and a few associates.

When Mr. Rumsfeld was asked the precise role of the United States military in removing Mr. Aristide, he replied, "The U.S. military role was to the Department of State managed that entire process."

Mr. Rumsfeld said he envisioned an American force in Haiti of 1,500 to 2,000, and that the troops' stay need not be a long one.

As for reports that Mr. Aristide had complained of being "virtually kidnapped" before his departure, Mr. Rumsfeld said: "I don't believe that's true that he is claiming that. I just don't know that that's the case. I'd be absolutely amazed if that were the case."

Although Mr. McClellan and Secretary Rumsfeld conveyed the impression that they considered the questions hardly worthy of reply, they were dealing with a potentially serious and sensitive issue in trying to stop a rumor before it became grist for a version of history.

In the few days before Mr. Aristide stepped down amid escalating violence, the Bush administration made it abundantly clear that it wanted him to quit. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, for instance, repeatedly suggested that Mr. Aristide should weigh the best interests of his people, and Secretary Powell did nothing to discourage the notion that he meant that Mr. Aristide should step aside.

Asked today whether the American military might have hastened Mr. Aristide's departure from Haiti, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "The Department of State and other countries worked with the Haitian government, and I think I'll leave it to the Department of State to characterize what took place."

As if to discourage the notion of American military involvement, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, said that the plane that had taken Mr. Aristide away was not a military craft but rather a plane under contract to the State Department.

Mr. Rumsfeld said he expected the total peacekeeping force in Haiti to number fewer than 5,000, with a majority from countries other than the United States.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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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