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Haiti Rebels Say They Are Ready to Attack Capital Any Time


Rebels in northern Haiti say they are ready to attack the capital at any time unless Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide steps down. More foreigners continue to evacuate Haiti as the rebel threats escalate, and security deteriorates.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe says his men are in position to attack Port-au-Prince and are only waiting to see if Mr. Aristide steps down before doing so.

Mr. Philippe, a former regional police chief says he has already positioned supporters inside the capital and is ready to seize the National Palace and arrest Mr. Aristide if he does not resign immediately.

The rebel leader made his claims from Haiti's second largest city, Cap Haitian, which his forces seized several days ago.

So far there has been no independent confirmation of his forces moving south towards the capital.

Still life is getting more difficult for residents like Moliere Joseph, who waited unsuccessfully on Thursday for hours to withdraw money from one of the few banks open in the capital.

Moliere Joseph says he has run out of money to buy food for his family and has no idea when he will get the chance to withdraw his savings to buy food to keep his family alive.

Speaking on CNN television Thursday, President Aristide appealed for international peacekeepers to be sent to Haiti. Mr. Aristide says only a few dozen peacekeepers could end the rebellion in northern Haiti. Haitian government and opposition leaders are scheduled to meet with senior French officials later this week in Paris in an effort to end the crisis.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told senators Thursday the United States is willing to participate with other countries in an international police presence to stabilize the situation in Haiti. But he said the U.S. still hopes this can be done in the context of a political deal between Mr. Aristide and the opposition.

On Wednesday, opposition leaders rejected an international power-sharing plan because it does not call for Mr. Aristide to step down, something he says he has no intention of doing.

Opposition leader Andre Apaid says the opposition has no connection with Guy Philippe and his rebels but says the rebellion could end if Mr. Aristide leaves office.

"When they [the rebels] arrive in a town they find very disabused and upset people," he said. "So it easy for them to find fertile ground to bring fuel to their machine. We ask that the fuel be removed understanding and stepping down."

With Port-au-Prince streets largely free of barricades, a small group of U.S. diplomatic security agents escorted dozens of dependents of U.N. personnel and diplomats to the city's airport for evacuation. On Wednesday, the group was prevented from leaving by the violence in the city, although another group of diplomats and their dependents did depart late in the day for Mexico.

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