Settlement in Haiti could come today

April 16, 1993|By Cox News Service

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- United Nations envoy Dante Caputo said yesterday that he expected a decisive reply from Haiti's military leaders today on a proposal to restore democracy.

Diplomats said chances for a settlement have been enhanced by exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's reported concession to army demands for a blanket amnesty.

"Tomorrow will be an important deadline," Mr. Caputo said. "We have to go to real positions now. That is what I am asking for -- positions."

"We cannot stay for a long time with this kind of uncertainty. Uncertainty is dangerous, and I hope that by Friday afternoon I will have some clear ideas about the immediate future."

Caputo met with Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and other army leaders for 90 minutes Wednesday night.

This is the fifth round of talks in the 4-month-old effort to restore Father Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, to power.

Mr. Caputo called the session "a positive meeting."

A senior diplomat close to the talks said Mr. Caputo expected to leave Haiti with an agreement from army leaders that would open the door for serious political negotiations. "The idea of [Father Aristide's] return has become a part of the reality," the diplomat said.

Diplomats said that the anticipation that a deal can be sealed for the return of Father Aristide rests on the populist priest's reversing his previous unwillingness to grant amnesty for anything but political crimes. Up to 3,000 killings and other crimes are attributed to the security forces during the September 1991 coup and since then.

An independent human rights group, Americas Watch, told Mr. Caputo it opposed the blanket amnesty and said it could fuel exactly the kind of uncontrolled mob violence that security forces fear.

"We are troubled to learn that the de facto rulers of Haiti have come to expect a blanket amnesty for allowing Haiti's duly elected president . . . to return to power," said an April 14 letter to Mr. Caputo.

Diplomats said that under the proposed agreement, Father Aristide's return could come within six months, following his naming of a prime minister and the resignation of several senior army leaders who played roles in the coup.

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