Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Hti: Aristide kidnapping claims an effort to CHA

Aristide was sad and passive, not combative about ouster, U.S. Ambassador James Foley said in an interview

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Jean-Bertrand Aristide appeared resigned but philosophical about his imminent ouster, and surprisingly without fight, U.S. Ambassador James Foley said in an interview in which he reflected on the Haitian leader’s last hours in office.

Foley also told The Associated Press Monday that Haiti will remain a security risk for the United States as long as it cannot sustain itself.

While the United States has no plans for additional monetary aid this fiscal year, Foley said he thought it would provide long-term support for the country that poses a drug and illegal migration threat to the United States.

Foley said he had sad conversations with Aristide through the night before Haiti’s leader fled hastily Feb. 29.

Aristide later charged that Haiti’s only democratically elected leader in 200 years was forced from power by a U.S. "coup d’etat" against his Caribbean country.

"We talked all night, at least four times ..." Foley said, in his most detailed public comments on the ousted leader’s frame of mind at the time. "It was a very poignant series of conversations. I saluted him for putting the interests of the country first. It was a friendly conversation. I told him how very sad I thought it was that this is happening ... It was a very sad series of conversations."

He said Aristide "never challenged our position" that there would be a bloodbath if he did not leave as rebels who had overrun half the country in three weeks closed in on Port-au-Prince, the capital. Some 300 people died in the uprising.

"What was surprising was his passivity and philosophical resignation."

Foley said Aristide appeared more concerned about his security, and that his imminent departure be kept secret.

"My own feeling was that Aristide had already decided to leave," Foley said. "He didn’t need convincing..."

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