U.S. says six ships in place around Haiti



PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP)—A U.S. warship rode the horizon off the capital Sunday—to some Haitians an omen that a foreign invasion was imminent, to others a harbinger that democracy might soon be restored.

The USS Sterett was one of six dispatched by President Clinton to enforce a U.N. arms and oil embargo that is take effect at midnight Monday unless Haiti’s military leaders cooperate with a U.N.-brokered accord on bringing back ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

It was the first one spotted by the capital’s fearful residents, although a Pentagon spokesman in Washington, Maj. Steve Little, said all six were in place Sunday.

Army commander Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, whose resignation is part of the U.N. accord, indicated Sunday that the army does not want to challenge the United States.

‘‘The Haitian people do not want to confront the American might,’‘ he told CNN. ‘‘We do not have the intention of defying the United States.’‘

Cedras also repeated his call for a national conference of all Haitian sectors to resolve the crisis and the army’s displeasure with the United Nations as mediator, and said that a papal representative would be a good alternative.

In Washington, Aristide spokeswoman Gwen McKinney in Washington said it was ‘‘totally unacceptable and outrageous for Gen. Cedras to propose a new negotiator.’‘

The Vatican gave Cedras and other leaders of the 1991 coup that overthrew Aristide their only international recognition. It also accused Aristide, a former priest, of fomenting class divisions and withdrew the papal nuncio after Aristide’s election, sending him back only after the coup.

Aristide, the country’s first freely elected leader, was to return Oct. 30 under an accord he and Cedras signed in July. A pro-Aristide prime minister had taken office to ease the transition, which was to be aided by a 1,600-man U.N. military mission.

But Cedras refused last week to step down due to a dispute over an amnesty for human-rights violators. A U.S. warship carrying troops for the U.N. mission turned back in the face of unruly port workers and protesters. The country’s justice minister was assassinated in broad daylight.

As the tensions grew, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole said Sunday he will offer legislation restricting Clinton’s authority to send troops to Haiti.

Dole, speaking on CBS’ ‘‘Face the Nation,’‘ said he will offer an amendment early this week requiring congressional authorization for sending American troops to Haiti unless the president certifies certain conditions, such as a threat to national security, exist.

‘‘I wouldn’t risk any American lives to put Aristide back in power and try to force democracy on Haiti,’‘ he said.

In Haiti, some of the 2,000 Canadians in the country left Sunday at the urging of their embassy, and Belgium also issued a recommendation for its 400 citizens to leave.

Nearly all U.N. personnel have been evacuated from the country and the U.S Embassy is warning Americans in Haiti to be careful.

There is wide hostility toward Americans from Haitians who believe that an invasion or longtime military presence, such as in Somalia, is in the works. One ultranationalist leader said Saturday his followers would use voodoo against foreign invaders.

In conversations along a beachfront west of Port-au-Prince Sunday, about a dozen Haitians said they did not want foreign intervention. But they also said that life was so bad for them under military rule, that they would welcome foreign troops if that resolved the current crisis.

Aristide is widely popular with Haiti’s poor masses, and there is overwhelming support among ordinary Haitians for a U.N. peace plan that would put the traditionally repressive military back in the barracks.

Cedras told CNN that there was no threat to any Americans, or to any U.N. personnel.

‘‘There is no threat against any American on Haitian soil,’‘ he said. ‘‘This is an internal problem.’‘ He said no members of the civilian U.N. mission had been threatened in the year they have been in the country.

He also reiterated his conditions for stepping down, including a military amnesty.

Despairing Port-au-Prince residents were also jamming aboard trucks Sunday to flee the city. Bus drivers seeking to capitalize on the fear doubled fares.

On a street in the capital, gunmen killed a young woman who had been carrying a suitcase, presumably intending to leave. There were no further details.

Opponents of Aristide’s return threatened to shut down business in Port-au-Prince again Monday. Such efforts succeeded in the past with help from the military and allied civilian gangs.

Stanley Schrager, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Haiti, said U.S. policy-makers believe Cedras is unlikely to meet the United Nations’ terms for avoiding the sanctions.

The sanctions, initially imposed after Aristide’s ouster, were credited with helping induce Cedras into signing the July accord. They were lifted in August, and the reimposition was expected to drive the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country further into economic despair.

But Michel McKenzie Joseph, who stood on a Port-au-Prince street watching others cram into departing vehicles, said he felt hopeful that the sanctions and the warships’ looming presence would work.

‘‘I love Aristide!’‘ he shouted.