U.N. urges former leaders to help salvage accord



PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP)—U.N. envoy Dante Caputo urged international statesmen Monday to come to Haiti within 48 hours to protect lawmakers against political terror and salvage a rapidly unraveling plan for restoring democracy.

Caputo made his desperate appeal just five days before ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is scheduled to return under the terms of a U.N. peace plan.

Premier Robert Malval canceled a trip to Washington to meet Aristide because he did not want to raise expectations that Aristide would return on time, Information Minister Herve Denis said.

But State Department officials and an Aristide aide said Malval may go Thursday to New York, where Aristide is expected to appeal for international support in an address to the U.N. General Assembly.

Before Aristide returns, a U.N. plan calls for Haiti’s parliament to pass laws putting the army’s police division under civilian control and giving amnesty to military leaders. But lawmakers, terrorized by a series of political killings, have been unable to reach a quorum.

Caputo hopes the presence of former world leaders would deter violence against lawmakers and allow passage of the legislation.

Pro-Aristide lawmakers said they would not meet Tuesday because they feared for their safety.

‘‘If people could kill the justice minister, which is unacceptable, why not kill a lot of parliamentarians? What would block them from killing me or anybody else?’‘ pro-Aristide Sen. Jacques Rony Mondestin said, referring to the death of Justice Minister Guy Malary Oct. 11.

Malary’s death was the latest in a series of attacks on Aristide supporters since a U.N. plan to restore democracy was signed July 3.

Mondestin spoke after meeting Malval at his home, where the head of the transition government works for safety reasons.

Malval met Monday with Caputo and spent nearly three hours with army commander Raoul Cedras, who led the coup against Aristide. A spokesman for Malval said ‘‘there was no agreement’‘ between the two men.

Caputo’s appeal to former world leaders is a desperate attempt to bring back Aristide, the country’s first democratically elected president. The effort is supported by many Haitians but opposed by factions in the powerful military and tiny elite that have traditionally ruled this impoverished nation.

Last week, two pro-Aristide deputies went into hiding after receiving death threats, as other Aristide supporters and human rights officials have done.

In a television interview and crowded news conference, Caputo urged the statesmen to fly in quickly to serve as ‘‘witnesses to the world’‘ and ‘‘moral protection’‘ for legislators.

Among those invited were former president Jimmy Carter, Canada’s Brian Mulroney, Argentina’s Raul Alfonsin, Brazil’s Jose Sarney, Jamaica’s Michael Manley and Julio Sanguinetti of Uruguay.

U.N. officials did not say if any had yet accepted, but Caputo urged their presence for parliamentary sessions this week. No reservation requests had been made by Monday evening at the Hotel Montana where Caputo has his offices.

Carter said Monday he supported Caputo’s call, but was not ready to go or send an Atlanta-based group he founded to monitor 1990 Haiti elections.

A spokesman for Alfonsin said the former Argentinian president would speak with Caputo, his former foreign minister, about the special envoy’s request.

Manley, Jamaica’s former prime minister, said he would act only after speaking with Aristide and U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Uruguayan former president Sanguinetti said he had received no request regarding a visit to Haiti. ‘‘If I do, I’ll respond,’‘ he told The Associated Press.

Caputo’s plan won quick support from the United States. ‘‘Anything that would assist in the security of the parliamentarians is a good sign,’‘ embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager told The Associated Press.

Even an anti-Aristide lawmaker welcomed Caputo’s gesture. ‘‘We wish for political and international personalities to be here with us,’‘ said Deputy Ancelot Venort.

Taking a page from U.S. critics who have questioned Aristide’s mental stability, four anti-Aristide lawmakers later said they planned to ask Parliament to require a psychological test from Aristide before he could return to power.

In Washington, President Clinton defended his administration’s Haiti policy against criticism from Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, who said that returning Aristide to power wasn’t worth a single American life.

‘‘The United States has an interest in avoiding large-scale outpourings of refugees, making sure the country is not a conduit for drug deliveries to this country, and promoting democracy in our hemisphere,’‘ Clinton said. ‘‘And we’re pursuing that policy.’‘

At Washington’s recommendation, the United Nations reimposed an international arms-and-oil embargo on Haiti on Oct. 16 to pressure military leaders to step down. U.S. ships have enforced the embargo with warships.

In his appeal, Caputo also urged Cedras, who had helped topple Aristide in a military coup in 1991, to guarantee security for the lawmakers.

‘‘The army has always guaranteed security,’‘ Army Col. Joseph Pierre Antoine told reporters in a hastily called news conference.

Antoine refused to answer whether the army high command would be physically present at key legislative sessions, as pro-Aristide lawmakers demanded.

The plea for the high-level observers comes as Haiti suffers under the embargo, exacerbated by the shutoff of gas last week from storage tanks in the country. Scores of Haitians piled onto a bus to the southern city of Les Cayes, fleeing shortages and army-backed civilian gangs.

‘‘There is no gasoline. It is difficult for us to find food,’‘ said Guillaum Raymond, a manager of the Four Seasons bus company who was on his way home. ‘‘It’s better for us to go to our homeland. We will eat what we find.’‘

In a reminder of the violence, two bodies, one with hands tied, were left lying on city streets Monday.