- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said yesterday the letter he signed before his departure on Sunday was not a “formal resignation” and he plans to return to his country soon.

U.S. officials, however, urged Haiti and the international community to focus on “moving forward.” While they noted that only the Haitian people can choose their leaders, officials said Mr. Aristide has proven incapable of good governance.

They also said it was clear from his letter that he was stepping down and leaving the country voluntarily to prevent further bloodshed.

“The fact remains that Mr. Aristide resigned for the best interests of Haiti and the Haitian people, and he did so freely and of his own accord,” said National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack.

The former president, in an interview with French writer and Haiti expert Claude Ribbe, a recording of which was obtained by Agence France-Presse, said he is not “the kind of person to stay in exile.”

He added that, “before going back home,” he may stop in South Africa, which was reportedly his preferred final destination when he left Haiti. He has been in the Central African Republic since early Monday morning.

Mr. Aristide also insisted he is still Haiti’s president and accused France of “colluding” with the United States to oust him.

“There is a document that was signed to avoid a bloodbath, but there was no formal resignation,” he said. “This political kidnapping was the price to pay to avoid a bloodbath.”

Questions arose yesterday about the translation of his letter from Creole by the U.S. Embassy in Haiti.

“Tonight I am resigning in order to avoid a bloodbath. I accept to leave, with the hope that there will be life and not death,” said the embassy’s version.

But Albert Valdman, a linguistics professor and specialist in Haitian Creole at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., provided a different translation upon request from the Associated Press: “If tonight it is my resignation that will avoid a bloodbath, I accept to leave with the hope that there will be life and not death.”

Earlier yesterday, the United States rejected calls from Caribbean and South African leaders for a probe into Mr. Aristide’s departure.

“There is nothing to investigate,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters. “Now that we are where we are, the focus needs to be on moving forward. There was no kidnapping. There was no coup. There were no threats. We sat down carefully with Mr. Aristide and analyzed the situation with him.”

On Wednesday, the Caribbean Community said it was “extremely disappointed” by the involvement of “Western partners” in Mr. Aristide’s exit and demanded an investigation.

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