Army chief makes conditional offer to resign



PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP)—The chief of Haiti’s military promised Wednesday to step down if lawmakers approve a general amnesty and said U.N. troops thwarted from landing in Haiti could enter if they left their automatic weapons behind.

Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras also called President Clinton ‘‘very ill-informed’‘ about efforts to restore democracy in the country.

Cedras spoke at a news conference where he signaled a willingness to return power to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but set conditions for the transition that were unlikely to be accepted by the United Nations. Cedras led the army in a September 1991 coup against Aristide.

His statement came hours before the United Nations Security Council voted to impose an oil and arms embargo unless the military leaders adhere to an accord to restore democracy by Monday.

The resolution also raises the possibility of unspecified ‘‘additional measures’‘ but did not authorize the use of force. Previous sanctions are seen as having pressured Cedras into agreeing to restore Aristide and democracy.

‘‘I am ready to resign for the good of the nation,’‘ Cedras said at army headquarters.

Asked whether that would be by Friday, the date which U.N. officials say he had previously given as a deadline to quit, he answered softly: ‘‘I hope.’‘

U.N. officials say Cedras verbally gave a Friday deadline for quitting. But Cedras aides say he made no such commitment. The U.N. plan, which Cedras agreed to, states only that he will step down before Aristide’s return Oct. 30.

As part of the agreement, Aristide decreed an amnesty for officers accused of human-rights violations, but Parliament has not yet made the decree into law.

‘‘Yesterday I heard President Clinton say that Aristide had fulfilled his part. President Clinton is very ill-informed,’‘ Cedras said.

He also said the U.N. plan guaranteed that any foreign troops arriving here as part of a U.N. force must carry only handguns, not the M-16 assault rifles that U.S. medics, military engineers and civil affairs specialists reportedly were to pack.

A senior U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said none of the 53 foreign military personnel or about 50 Canadian police trainers now in Haiti have M-16s.

The U.N. official said Cedras had created the M-16 issue to seek a way out of the international agreement.

Clinton said the Haitian military broke the terms of the agreement by resisting the deployment of 194 Americans and 25 Canadian troops who had come to Haiti this week aboard the USS Harlan County.

Clinton and the Organization of American States said they support re-imposition of sanctions upon Haiti, a tactic that previously has led to concessions by the military.

The Harlan County retreated from Haitian waters Tuesday after Haitian authorities refused to let it dock and protesters vowed to fight foreign troops. Hundreds of right-wing Haitians cheered and fired guns in celebration, while Aristide supporters viewed the departure with disappointment and fear.

On Wednesday, anticipating the restoration of U.N sanctions, Haitians crowded gas stations. It is unclear how much fuel Haiti has.

Sanctions were first imposed weeks after the coup. In June, an oil embargo was imposed to increase pressure on military leaders. But it was lifted in late August after Cedras agreed to the U.N. plan.

During the oil embargo, Haitian authorities limited deliveries to stations and individual purchases to $5. Several provincial towns went without deliveries and black market prices rose to $20 a gallon.

A Western diplomat said that since the embargo was lifted, Haiti stockpiled fuel quickly. The nation now has a six-month reserve, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Earlier sanctions were criticized by aid experts as indirectly hurting those who could afford it the least—Haiti’s poor masses.

Since the 1991 coup, about 10,000 Haitians have died from direct or indirect effects of the sanctions, Haitian lawmakers and medical officials have said.