The Washington Post
Wednesday, February 18, 2004; Page A14

Haitian Official Appeals For Help to End Revolt

Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 17 -- Haiti's prime minister appealed Tuesday for international help to end an uprising against the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in which at least 57 people have been killed.

Prime Minister Yvon Neptune made his plea a day after former soldiers joined the rebellion, seizing the key central city of Hinche, burning the police station, freeing prisoners and increasing the potential for full-scale civil war.

Rebels also controlled most roads leading in and out of the northern Artibonite region, home to almost 1 million people, and chased police from a dozen towns.

"We are witnessing the coup d'etat machine in motion," Neptune told reporters. He said Haiti's 5,000-member police force is not equipped to respond and that he expected the international community "to show that it really wants peace and stability in Haiti."

But Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that "there is frankly no enthusiasm right now for sending in military or police forces to put down the violence that we are seeing."

Powell, speaking on CNN, said the international community wants to see "a political solution" and only then would willing nations offer a police presence.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called an emergency meeting to weigh the risks of sending peacekeepers and how otherwise to help the impoverished island, a former colony that is home to 2,000 French citizens.

He said France had 4,000 troops trained in humanitarian work in its Caribbean territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe. "We are in contact with all of our partners in the framework of the United Nations, which has sent a humanitarian mission to Haiti to see what is possible."

The United States has staged three military interventions in Haiti, the last in 1994 when it sent 20,000 troops to end a military dictatorship that had ousted Aristide and to halt an influx of Haitian boat people to Florida.

Fearing a new exodus, Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said representatives of the agency were meeting in Washington with U.S. and Caribbean officials to discuss how to cope with any flight of Haitians.

Witnesses said about 50 rebels descended Monday on the police station in Hinche and killed three officers before police fled the city of 50,000. Hinche is about 70 miles
northeast of Port-au-Prince, the capital.

On Tuesday, it was impossible to reach Hinche because police and armed Aristide supporters had erected barricades blocking the road at the town of Mirebalais, just
south of the city.

Witnesses said the rebels were led by Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former soldier sentenced to death in absentia who led the feared paramilitary group FRAPH which
killed and maimed hundreds of Aristide supporters under the military dictatorship between 1991 and 1994.

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