- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2004

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — The 15-nation Caribbean Community does not plan to recognize Haiti’s new U.S.-backed interim government, senior Caribbean officials said yesterday.

Several senior officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the region’s leaders made the decision by consensus on their second and final day of a summit.

They said they decided not to have formal relations with the new government due to concerns about the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29 and the precedent it could set.

On Thursday leaders demanded the U.N. General Assembly investigate Mr. Aristide’s claims he was abducted at gunpoint by U.S. agents as rebels threatened to attack Haiti’s capital.

Asked if the regional bloc would recognize the new interim government, one national leader said: “Our people would not allow us to do that.”

Talks continued yesterday but officials said their minds were made up. They said they would discuss the issue again at their regular annual summit in July in Grenada.

Mr. Aristide has been in temporary exile in Jamaica since March 15, despite protests from U.S. and Haitian officials. In an earlier report, Jamaican officials said Mr. Aristide will take permanent asylum in South Africa after next month’s elections there. South African officials, however, denied the report.

Caribbean leaders are “still upset and uncomfortable” about Mr. Aristide’s departure, and made that clear to U.N. special envoy Reginald Dumas when he listened to their debate, St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas said Thursday.

“We are prepared to discuss the possibility of identifying exactly what were the circumstances,” Mr. Douglas said. “We are taking this matter to the U.N. General Assembly for clarification.”

Conference officials said the 15-nation regional bloc wants the General Assembly to investigate rather than the Security Council, where the United States or France could veto the proposal.

The Caribbean Community can expect support from the 53-member African Union, which last month echoed its demand.

Mr. Douglas also said Caribbean leaders remain angry with interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who was not invited to the summit after he criticized Jamaica for allowing Mr. Aristide to return to the region from Africa.

The officials say Mr. Aristide has told Caribbean leaders that he was abducted at gunpoint by U.S. agents and put on a U.S.-chartered aircraft that carried him to the Central African Republic.

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