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U.N. Urged to Probe U.S. Role in Haiti

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By BERT WILKINSON, Associated Press Writer

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - Caribbean leaders said the U.N. General Assembly should investigate Jean-Bertrand Aristide's claims that the United States staged a coup in Haiti and forced the ouster of the country's first democratically elected president.

The 15-nation Caribbean Community also said it was considering rejecting the U.S.-backed government of Haiti.

At the first day of a two-day summit Thursday, Caribbean leaders said they were focusing on whether to recognize a government that praises the rebels who helped oust Aristide.

Jamaican officials said Aristide will take permanent asylum in South Africa, but not until it holds general elections next month. Aristide has been in temporary exile in Jamaica since March 15, despite protests from U.S. and Haitian officials.

Caribbean leaders are "still upset and uncomfortable" about Aristide's departure, and made that clear to U.N. special envoy Reginald Dumas when he listened to their debate, St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas told The Associated Press.

"We are prepared to discuss the possibility of identifying exactly what were the circumstances," Douglas said. "We are taking this matter to the U.N. General Assembly for clarification."

Conference officials said the 15-nation regional bloc wants the General Assembly to investigate rather than the Security Council, where the United States or France could veto the proposal.

The Caribbean can expect support from the 53-member African Union, which last month echoed its demand.

The officials say Aristide has told Caribbean leaders that he was abducted at gunpoint by U.S. agents and put on a U.S.-chartered aircraft that carried him to the Central African Republic.

U.S. officials say they organized the Feb. 29 departure at Aristide's request and probably saved his life as rebels who had overrun half the country threatened to attack Haiti's capital.

Caribbean leaders are angry that the Security Council refused their urgent plea to send international troops to save Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected leader, but speedily sanctioned a U.S.-led intervention after he fled.

The Caribbean bloc refused to join that peacekeeping force, but on Thursday considered sending troops with a separate U.N. humanitarian force to help rebuild Haiti, Douglas said. It would deploy within three months.

Douglas also said Caribbean leaders remain angry with interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who was not invited to the summit after he criticized the group for allowing Aristide to return to the region from Africa.

The leaders Wednesday night canceled a meeting with Latortue because he refused to sign and distribute a statement of apology that they prepared for him, Douglas said.

He said leaders also were angry at Latortue for hailing as "freedom fighters" the rebels who include assassins convicted of murdering Aristide supporters.

Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson warned Haiti's crisis cannot reach a "lasting and permanent solution" without the community's "collective support."

In Haiti, interim Cabinet Minister Robert Ulysse said Aristide's departure would help. "Haiti wants to have good neighbor relations with Caricom," Ulysse told the AP. "We want to put (Aristide) behind us and allow Haiti to move forward."

Douglas said community was divided over suspending Haiti's membership. He said several countries asked to remain engaged, including the Bahamas, which regularly sees arrivals of Haitian boat people.

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