From Thu Mar 4 19:45:10 2004 Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2004 23:23:14 -0600 (CST) From: Subject: Marines to Protect Haiti PM; Baby Doc to Return? Article: 174621 To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

US Marines move to protect Haitian PM as rebels refuse to disarm

AFP, 2 March 2004

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) - Rebels raised the stakes in Haiti's crisis, refusing to disarm and vowing to arrest the prime minister as US Marines scrambled to fill a security vacuum left after president Jean Bertrand Aristide fled into exile.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe, who had pledged to end his insurrection once Aristide was gone, declared his forces would not disarm until the chimeres gangs loyal to the former president are no longer a threat.

We won't give back our weapons now, Philippe told supporters after leading a noisy march through the capital. We have to protect ourselves and the Haitian people until the chimeres are disarmed, he said.

Earlier, Philippe had said he would begin disarmament talks soon with interim leader Boniface Alexandre, when the authorities could end the looting and violence.

US Marines raced to protect Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, a close Aristide ally who stayed after the president's departure, after a top aide to Philippe told a cheering crowd that the rebels would arrest the premier.

The speedy dispatch of the Marines along with a military helicopter to Neptune's office was an indication of Haiti's volatility following Aristide's departure, particularly as Philippe and his rebels are now in Port-au-Prince.

Marine commander Colonel David Bergen, whose troops entered the capital's looted and barricaded port on Tuesday, backed with surface-to-surface missiles and other heavy weaponry, described the prime minister's office as one of several friction points around the city.

The rebels' presence in the capital and their uncertain ambitions have alarmed the international community which is trying to implement a power-sharing plan aimed at ending the crisis between the government and the political opposition.

It's a very difficult situation to read right now, said a senior western diplomat. They (the rebels) could very well want to throw a spanner in the works.

In Washington, the State Department demanded that the rebels disarm and disband, saying they do not have a role in the political process now underway to restore a functioning government and stabilize the impoverished nation.

The top US diplomat for Latin America, Roger Noriega, denigrated Philippe's force as a ragtag band of people and suggested that once an international security force was in Haiti, the rebel leader would probably want to make himself scarce.

The Marines, along with French and Canadian troops, are the vanguard of the multinational force that is to be deployed in coming days with help from Chile, Brazil and other western hemisphere nations.

They are under orders to end the looting and violence in the capital to shore up Alexandre's shaky authority and ease growing tension between Aristide loyalists and Philippe's rebels that has sparked fears of a bloodbath.

The United States, meanwhile, struggled to quell questions over its role in Aristide's flight into exile in the Central African Republic, repeating denials of Aristide's accusations that he had been overthrown in a coup d'etat by US diplomats and troops who coerced him into leaving.

Aristide's allegations—dismissed by the White House, Secretary of State Colin Powell and the US diplomat who escorted the president to the airp ort on Sunday—threaten to complicate the power-sharing deal.

Diplomats fear Aristide's accusations may prompt his loyalists to violently reject or sabotage the agreement.

The political opposition, however, signalled its intention to move ahead with the internationally backed plan by naming a representative to a three-person panel that will choose a seven-strong council of wise men to select a new prime minister and government.

The civic leaders and opposition politicians who rejected mediation while Aristide remained president, named former leftist senator Paul Denis to the panel.

He will join a representative from Aristide's Lavalas Family political party and the chief of Haiti office of the UN Development Program, Adama Guindo, on the trilateral body.

Another potentially complicating factor arose when deposed Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Baby Doc Duvalier, now in exile in France, said he would like to return to his homeland now that Aristide is gone.

Although he denied aspirations for the presidency, he Duvalier told a Florida television station he was ready to put myself at the disposal of the Haitian people.

Duvalier and his feared Ton-Ton Macoutes militias were responsible for thousands of killings and drove hundreds of thousands of Haitians into exile.