- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

From combined dispatches

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Fourteen Caribbean nations yesterday rejected joining any peacekeeping force for Haiti, criticizing Western nations in their response to the rebellion against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson of Jamaica said the Caribbean Community was “extremely disappointed” at the involvement of “Western partners” in the hasty departure of Mr. Aristide.

Speaking for the 15-nation trading bloc, Mr. Patterson said the U.N. Security Council failed to respond to its appeals to help Mr. Aristide by sending an international armed force to restore order in Haiti.

“We believe that we put forward a very compelling case before the Security Council on Thursday of last week. The Security Council failed to respond then,” he said.

Mr. Aristide fled into exile on Sunday as rebels closed in on the capital, Port-au-Prince, after a 3-week rebellion. Mr. Aristide claimed U.S. troops forced him to flee.

“We could not fail to observe that what was impossible on Thursday could be accomplished in an emergency meeting on Sunday. We are disappointed in the extreme at the failure to act,” Mr. Patterson said.

“In the prevailing circumstances, the leaders do not envisage their participation in the multinational peacekeeping force authorized by the U.N. Security Council,” the leaders said in a statement ending an emergency meeting on Haiti.

Meanwhile in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s rebel leader said he was disarming his forces and pulling them off the capital’s lawless streets, where gunfights erupted three days after Mr. Aristide was driven into exile.

“We have decided to lay down our arms,” said Guy Philippe, one day after announcing that he was chief of the military and police in defiance of the United States, which is heading a U.N.-authorized mission to restore order.

“The front from now on has no men patrolling the streets,” Mr. Philippe told reporters, referring to the rebel forces.

He said he had made the decision because international security forces were moving to disarm Aristide supporters.

Washington, which is working with prominent Haitians to form a new administration, told the rebels Tuesday to lay down their arms because they had no political role.

Mr. Philippe spoke after gunfights broke out yesterday between rebels and militant supporters of the ex-president.

The first wave of foreign forces, including U.S., French and Canadian troops, guarded key sites but kept a low profile.

Old women with groceries balanced on their heads ran screaming as shots rang out at a crossroads near the La Saline slum. A truck was overturned.

Another gunbattle erupted in a traffic jam in a nearby street market, where panicky drivers reversed at high speed to avoid cross fire. Hundreds of people fled the streets around the U.S.-guarded National Palace.

In Washington, a State Department official, who asked not to be named, said the rebels had to make good on their pledge.

“Nice if it’s true,” he said. “Promises are a good thing, but actually doing it is what’s important.”

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee, said the United States had been in contact with rebel leaders yesterday and he expected them to abandon their positions.

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