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White House Rejects Allegations that Aristide was Kidnapped - 2004-03-01


The Bush administration is rejecting allegations Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced to resign as president of Haiti and left the country against his will.

Spokesman Scott McClellan said the allegations have no basis. "It's complete nonsense!" He said Mr. Aristide was not abducted or kidnapped and consulted with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti on the best way to give up power and get out of the country safely. "We took steps to protect Mr. Aristide and his family so they would not be harmed as they left Haiti," he said.

But African-American members of the U.S. Congress who have spoken to Mr. Aristide since his arrival in the Central African Republic say he says he was forced to leave.

Representatives Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters recounted their conversations in broadcast interviews, as did black activist Randall Robertson. They said Jean-Bertrand Aristide told them he was abducted at gunpoint by American soldiers and put aboard a plane.

Those words brought a sharp response from Secretary of State Colin Powell. He told reporters that the allegation is absurd and unhelpful, especially at a time when the United States is trying to help restore stability and put a political process on track in Haiti. "He was not kidnapped, we did not force him onto the airplane, he went onto the airplane willingly and that's the truth. And it would have been better for members of Congress who have heard these stories, to ask us about the stories before going public with them, so that we don't make a difficult situation that much more difficult," he said.

Secretary Powell said Mr. Aristide wrote his letter of resignation and only then did the United States send in an airplane to get him out of Haiti.

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