Haiti's Parliament hopes Aristide will spurn offer

June 16, 1993|By P. J. Slavin | P. J. Slavin,Contributing Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is expected to reject an offer from Haiti's Parliament to restore him to the presidency, just as the Parliament hoped he would.

In a hollow gesture to block a worldwide petroleum embargo, Haiti's army-backed Parliament voted yesterday to restore recognition to the man the military removed in a bloody 1991 coup.

Parliamentarians who supported the vote said they expected Father Aristide to reject the offer -- a rejection, they say, that is part of their strategy to paint him as an unreliable negotiator and thus curtail international support for him.

They believe their action will be well received by an international community seeking a way to end this crisis. And, political analysts say, they hope it can stave off a proposed United Nations petroleum embargo.

"I don't think Aristide can come back tomorrow," said a senator who voted to reinstate Father Aristide during the 20-hour joint session of Parliament that was convened to find a successor to Marc L. Bazin, the de facto head of state, who resigned unexpectedly June 8. "He has too many enemies."

The resolution means that Father Aristide, from exile, will be able to name a prime minister who will form a new government and negotiate his return.

Father Aristide must also accept all actions taken by the congress since the coup, including a promotion for the army commander, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, whom Father Aristide blames for the takeover.

Aristide supporters condemned Parliament's decision even before the lawmakers roll call was completed at 4 a.m. yesterday.

The Presidential Commission, a 10-member civilian body appointed by Father Aristide to negotiate on his behalf, ignored the decision because they insist that the Haitian army high command must resign before Father Aristide will consider returning.

Since Mr. Bazin's resignation, parliamentarians have huddled with the army high command to come up with a new civilian government. The proposal to reinstate Father Aristide came out of those meetings, lawmakers said.

"Do you think we could do this without the consent of the army?" asked one senator, an Aristide critic. "Those in charge have the weapons. I have no weapons."

Deputy Frantz Monde, another Aristide critic who voted to reinstate him, implied that because recognizing Father Aristide as president is acknowledged by diplomats as the first step toward resolving the political and economic crisis, he hopes this gesture by Parliament will be viewed by the United Nations as a step toward a settlement.

"We're going to find a solution with the international community," he said.

A Haitian businessman with knowledge of the negotiations with the army said that Michael D. Barnes, the former Maryland congressman and an Aristide adviser, had sent a message to the army last week, saying that Father Aristide would not accept reinstatement by Parliament until the army high command resigns.

Aristide supporters also said the international community should not recognize Parliament's decision because Parliament lost its legitimacy when rigged congressional elections were held Jan. 18. The balloting gave Parliament solid anti-Aristide voting majorities.

"This is false Parliament," said Deputy Alexander Medard. "If the international community accepts this, we will not accept the international community's decision."

Mr. Medard and other parliamentarians from the pro-Aristide National Front for Change and Democracy have boycotted Parliament since failing to overturn the unconstitutional January elections.

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