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French, Brazilian, American Leaders Confer on Restoring Peace to Haiti - 2004-03-02

President Bush telephoned the leaders of France and Brazil to discuss efforts to restore peace in Haiti. The Bush Administration is continuing to deny claims by Haiti's former president that U.S. troops drove him from power.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr. Bush telephoned Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to discuss their continued cooperation on restoring peace and democracy in Haiti.

He also called French President Jacques Chirac to express his appreciation for French political and military support on Haiti.

President Chirac's spokeswoman said the French leader told Mr. Bush he was delighted by the quality of cooperation on Haiti and the relatively smooth departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Mr. McClellan again dismissed Mr. Aristide's claims that the Bush Administration forced him from power, saying the decision to leave was his to make and the U.S. military saved his life by getting him out of the country at his request.

"I think the absurd accusations that some have chosen to repeat do nothing to help the Haitian people and they do nothing to help move forward during this difficult period," the spokesman told reporters.

Mr. McClellan says the Bush Administration is focused on helping to bring order and stability to Haiti. He says American officials are working through a framework established by the Caribbean community to build a democratic and constitutional government for the Haitian people.

Mr. McClellan says he knows of no one from the Bush Administration who has tried to contact Mr. Aristide since he left power. The White House spokesman said Mr. Aristide must have his own reasons for continuing to complain that Washington forced him from office.

"The crisis in Haiti was largely the making of Mr. Aristide," stressed Mr. McClellan. "It was Mr. Aristide's failed government that empowered armed gangs to control the country. It was a failed government that condoned official corruption, including drug trafficking. It was a failed government that engaged in acts of political violence against a peaceful democratic opposition."

While Mr. Aristide was elected democratically, Mr. McClellan said he did not govern democratically and it was clear that he had lost the faith of the Haitian people.

Mr. McClellan says Mr. Aristide's resignation was in the best interest of the country and the deployment of U.S. troops at the head of an international security force helped preserve constitutional and democratic governance.