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Democratic Lawmakers Criticize Bush Over Handling of Haitian Crisis - 2004-02-27


Congressional Democrats are stepping up criticism of President Bush's handling of Haiti, and are urging greater U.S. engagement to end the crisis.

Senate Democrats say the Bush administration is not doing enough to try to stem the violence in Haiti. They are calling on administration officials to work with the Organization of American States to immediately dispatch peacekeepers in an effort to restore stability to the troubled Caribbean nation.

"What we are asking the administration to do is to right now, this weekend, tomorrow, join with the OAS and send in a peacekeeping force to bring some order, to let people know they cannot just run roughshod, that they cannot come in and shoot police stations up, burn buildings down, to help create some stability," said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.

At the White House, President Bush sidestepped questions about whether Jean-Bertrand Aristide should resign, instead noting comments from Secretary of State Colin Powell that Mr. Aristide should examine carefully how best to serve the Haitian people.

Mr. Bush said the focus now should be on a peaceful settlement. "We are interested in achieving a political settlement, and we are still working to that effect," he said. "We are also at the same time planning for a multinational force that would go in and make sure that if aid needed to be delivered or if there needed to be some stability that it could go in depending upon a political settlement."

Mr. Bush has ordered the U.S. Coast Guard to turn back any Haitian refugees fleeing the three-week-old uprising

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