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Powell Expects International Forces in Haiti to Shoulder Policing Role - 2004-03-01


Secretary of State Colin Powell says he does not expect the United States and other foreign troops who entered Haiti after the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to be involved in much fighting. He says the international presence should quickly shift from a combat to policing role.

The United States sent 20,000 troops to Haiti a decade ago to restore Mr. Aristide to power after a military coup and the U.S. soldiers stayed for two years.

But in appearances on U.S. television network morning news programs, Mr. Powell said the U.S. role in the new security presence will be much smaller, numbering in the hundreds to perhaps one thousand troops or so, though he said he could not say how long it might last.

Interviewed on the CBS network's Early Show, Mr. Powell said the United States initially will comprise the bulk of the security operation and have "a lead role," but he said it will shift from combat troops to police-type forces and the leadership can shift as well.

He said the U.S. troops are in Haiti to stabilize the situation and that initial indications are that they are having that effect:

"Overnight, things calmed down a bit and the Haitian National Police have started to function again, and I expect our troops and the other international troops coming in will help to stabilize things," said Mr. Powell. "I do not think that there will be a great deal of fighting, but they will be prepared for that. But they need to bring a sense of security back to the society, as we have done in times past unfortunately, that security did not stick because of the flawed politics of Haiti."

Mr. Powell told the NBC network he hoped the new intervention can put in place not only a democratically-elected government, but one that governs in a way that is seen as democratic, which he said Mr. Aristide did not do.

Under questioning on NBC, he also fended off criticism from Congressional Democrats that the Bush administration has not acted quickly enough and in the final stages had, in effect, allied itself with the Haitian rebels.

Mr. Powell said the administration had made no such alliance, and had worked hard to try to get a political accommodation between Mr. Aristide and the political opposition. But he said those efforts were frustrated, and that Mr. Aristide had been unable to put in place a political system "that would satisfy the needs of the Haitian people."

At the White House, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan also defended administration handling of the crisis in the face of, among other things, a New York Times editorial that said U.S. "hesitation" on dispatching troops had left Haitians "at the mercy" of rebel gangs.

Mr. McClellan said suggestions the United States had helped or abetted the rebels are false and that the public loss of faith in Mr. Aristide "was his own doing." He said the transfer of power to Haitian Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre reflects a constitutional process underway.

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