Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States will provide full support for Haiti's interim government. Mr. Powell's remarks came Monday in Port-au-Prince where Haiti's interim prime minister announced that general elections will be held next year.
Speaking at a news conference in Port-au-Prince following talks with interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, Secretary Powell said disarming armed groups in Haiti is a top priority, saying without disarmament Haiti's democracy will be at risk. Mr. Powell also met with commanders of multinational troops in Haiti, saying UN peacekeepers will replace the troops at some point in the future.
Mr. Latortue says, following talks among Haiti's political parties, and civil society groups, agreement has been reached to hold municipal, legislative and presidential elections next year.
Secretary Powell says the resignation and departure from Haiti of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide on February 29th had prevented a bloodbath. He says Mr. Aristide offered to resign voluntarily.
Mr. Aristide says he was forced to leave Haiti by the United States and France. Mr. Powell rejected a Caribbean Community proposal for a UN inquiry into Mr. Aristide's departure saying no purpose would be served by any such inquiry.
Leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community have withheld recognition from Haiti's interim government and have said they will not send troops to join the multinational force now in Haiti. Two thousand U.S. Marines and about one thousand French and other multinational troops are now in Haiti, working with Haiti's national police to stabilize the country following a total collapse of law and order following Mr. Aristide's departure.
Mr. Latortue says Haiti is in a state of total bankruptcy, blaming Mr. Aristide and his former close officials for in his words leaving Haiti with absolutely nothing.
Mr. Powell says the United States will contribute nine million U.S. dollars to the Organization of American states to create what he described as a democracy mission to help stabilize Haiti.
Monday's visit was Mr. Powell's first to Haiti since 1994, when he was part of a team led by former President Jimmy Carter who tried to convince Haiti's military leaders to allow Mr. Aristide to return to Haiti, after he had been ousted from power in 1991.