PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haiti's military commanders rejected yesterday an offer of amnesty by the country's ousted president that was to have been the cornerstone of a diplomatic settlement of this country's 18-month-old political stalemate.
The rejection was a setback to the efforts by the special United Nations envoy, Dante Caputo, who had set yesterday as a deadline for the military's acceptance of the amnesty offer.
In recent weeks, diplomats involved in the mediation efforts said they had been led to believe by the Haitian military leaders that they would accept the proposed settlement if they received a guarantee of amnesty.
Although the details of the rejection were not disclosed, diplomats said the Haitian army commander, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, had rejected outright acceptance of a proposed settlement, which calls for the early return of the exiled president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Father Aristide, a populist priest who was the country's first democratically elected leader, was overthrown in a violent army coup Sept. 30, 1991.
Mr. Caputo, whose mediation efforts have been strongly supported by the United States, said he was flying immediately to New York and Washington for consultations on what diplomats had already warned would be strong new measures aimed at bringing the Haitian military command into compliance.
Diplomats said they would soon announce highly selective sanctions to step up pressure on Haitian military leaders and their supporters among the country's political elite to accept a return to democratic rule.
"There are a few things we are going to try right away," said a diplomat close to the negotiations.
After delivering a written summary of the terms of the settlement Wednesday night, when he met with senior Haitian officers in Port-au-Prince, Mr. Caputo said he waited throughout the day Thursday and much of the morning yesterday for the army's answer.
"Some very bad things were said," Mr. Caputo said of the army's reply to the proposed settlement, but he declined to give details.