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US Sending Troops to Haiti - 2004-02-29

President Bush is sending U.S. troops to Haiti as the first contingent of an international security force. Mr. Bush is urging all Haitians to reject violence and give the constitutional process a chance to work, following the resignation of that country's president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The president said Haiti has begun a new chapter in its history, and he emphasizes the United States wants to help. "I have ordered the deployment of Marines as the leading element of an interim international force," he said.

He said the goal is to bring order and stability to Haiti. Speaking to reporters on the White House grounds, Mr. Bush called on the Haitian people to seize this new opportunity and refrain from bloodshed. "I would urge the people of Haiti to reject violence and give this break from the past a chance to work," he said.

The president's tone was somber as he spoke about recent events in Haiti. His comments were brief, focusing on the job ahead now that Jean-Bertrand Aristide has left the country for a life in exile. "The constitution of Haiti is working. There is an interim president as per the constitution, in place," he said.

Mr. Bush did not talk about any possible U.S. role in Mr. Aristide's decision to leave Haiti. In a written statement, the State Department said only that the United States facilitated his safe departure.

The statement stressed consultations are underway on a U.N. resolution authorizing international support for a peaceful and constitutional transition in Haiti. It also called for countries to join the United States and contribute to the international military mission.