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Peace Plan Under Consideration in Haiti

State Department officials said late Monday that Haitian opposition leaders have asked for, and been given, another 24 hours to consider an international plan aimed at ending the country's political crisis. The United States and other sponsors of the power-sharing plan have offered to guarantee its implementation and monitor compliance.

The international plan, building on a settlement package by the Caribbean grouping, CARICOM, was presented to the sides late last week by diplomats from the United States, Canada, France, CARICOM and the Organization of American States.

Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide has accepted it. But senior opposition figures, who have been demanding that Mr. Aristide leave office as part of any settlement, deferred a decision.

They had been given until late-afternoon Monday to make a choice, but then asked for, and were given a day's extension until Tuesday evening.

Diplomats who spoke to reporters here reiterated U.S. opposition to the early departure of Mr. Aristide, the country's elected leader, and said there had been some progress in talks with the opposition figures.

They said the international parties are prepared to guarantee both sides' compliance with the package, under which Mr. Aristide would share authority with a new prime minister and a broad-based advisory council that would lead the country to new elections to end a four-year political stalemate.

Briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell was personally involved in diplomatic efforts and spoke by phone Monday with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Mr. Powell also spoke with a leading Haitian opposition figure, Andre Arpaid, over the weekend.

Mr. Boucher conceded there were no direct contacts with rebels actually holding some of Haiti's biggest towns. But he said U.S. officials believe that if the plan is embraced by the opposition leadership, the gang leaders can be persuaded to fall into line. "Our view is that if you move Haiti in the direction of peace, if you can move toward a peaceful settlement of these differences, that there will be a stronger support among the population for maintaining the process, for maintaining a new government that's chosen, a new prime minister and government, that are chosen by this process. And that that will have a calming effect on the violence. And that that is indeed one of the first steps to try to calm the situation and create an atmosphere where order can be maintained," he said.

Mr. Boucher also said that with broad acceptance of the package, the international grouping would make good on promises to send additional police to Haiti, though he declined to say how quickly such a deployment might be made.

The United States Monday sent about 50 Marines to Haiti to protect the embassy and other U.S. facilities in Port-au-Prince.

But the Bush administration has ruled out military intervention in the broader conflict in Haiti and has not specifically offered personnel for the envisaged international police presence.