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US Blames Aristide for Violence in Haiti - 2004-02-29

The White House is blaming Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide for continuing violence in his country. The Bush administration again suggested that Mr. Aristide consider stepping down.

The White House says Haiti's long-simmering crisis is largely of Mr. Aristide's making. A written statement said armed gangs directed by the president are responsible for attacks on innocent civilians and humanitarian aid workers.

It called on Mr. Aristide to instruct his supporters to end the violence and said his failure to adhere to democratic principles has contributed to the deep polarization and violent unrest in Haiti today.

The Bush administration again suggested that the Haitian leader consider his position. While not directly calling on Mr. Aristide to step down, the written statement said his own actions have called into question his fitness to continue to govern. The White House urged him to accept responsibility and act in the best interests of the people of Haiti.

The statement said Washington is continuing to work with the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the Caribbean Community, as well as the governments of Canada and France to promote a political solution to the crisis. It called on rebels approaching the capital to cease their acts of violence and allow for a political solution.

President Bush has ordered the U.S. Coast Guard to turn back all Haitian refugees trying to reach American shores. The White House statement said the U.S. military is prepared to support that interdiction effort and to assist in the evacuation of U.S. citizens.