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France Calls on Haitian President to Resign - 2004-02-27

France has issued a new appeal for Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to quickly resign, as rebels say they are ready to march on the capital, Port-au-Prince.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told a group of Haitian leaders during a meeting in Paris Friday, that Mr. Aristide bears a "heavy responsibility" for Haiti's three-week-old uprising. He said President Aristide must "draw the consequences" of the current impasse in negotiations.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated the United States agrees, saying that perhaps the Haitian president should reconsider how he can best serve his people.

Meanwhile, rebels have taken control of a town less than 60 kilometers from Port-au-Prince. Rebel leader Guy Philippe says if President Aristide does not step down, his men are ready to take the capital. But observers say it is unlikely the rebels have assembled a force strong enough to take the city.

Mr. Aristide vowed again Thursday that he would not resign. He has said he would rather die than give up his post.

The United Nations and some of its members have indicated they are ready to commit police or other forces to help sustain a transitional government or new political arrangement in Haiti.

Haiti's escalating conflict has prompted hundreds of its citizens to risk a perilous sea journey to try to reach the United States. The U.S. Coast Guard says it is holding at least 500 migrants who were intercepted recently off the Haitian coast.

In a related development, American Airlines has canceled flights between Haiti and the United States until March third. The airline says its employees are having difficulty getting to the airport in Port-au-Prince.