U.N. OKs invasion of Haiti

August 01, 1994|By New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations Security Council voted yesterday to authorize an invasion and occupation of Haiti if sanctions fail to remove its military government, but officials in Washington said a decision on force was still weeks away.

The 12-0 approval with two abstentions opens the way for U.S. forces stationed just north of Haiti to move in to restore democracy there.

The resolution authorizing the invasion contains no date or deadline for carrying it out, unlike the resolution adopted before the U.S.-led action that drove Iraqi invasion forces out of Kuwait.

Madeleine K. Albright, the chief U.S. delegate to the United Nations, hailed the vote and said that it helps "lay the diplomatic groundwork" to give President Clinton a choice of options for dealing with Haiti that is wider than just the choice of an invasion.

The ambassador said the vote sent a signal to members of Haiti's ruling military junta that "you can depart voluntarily and soon, or you can depart involuntarily and soon."

During the three-hour Security Council meeting, representatives of Brazil, China, Mexico, Uruguay and Cuba expressed reservations about any military operation in Haiti.

Such an operation would be the first invasion in the Western Hemisphere to have U.N. support.

Representatives of the countries that objected to an invasion were allowed to speak, even though they are not members of the Security Council.

Brazil and China abstained from the Security Council vote. The delegate from Beijing, Li Zhaoxing, said his country thought the resolution set "a dangerous precedent." A representative from Rwanda, which holds the 15th council seat, was not present.

Aside from Brazil and the United States, Argentina is the only country from the Western Hemisphere on the Security Council, and it voted for the invasion resolution.

Speakers from Britain and Argentina cited accounts of terrorism and human rights violations in Haiti, saying that it was the right and duty of the United Nations to stop them. Hundreds of people were killed in Haiti when the junta overthrew the elected government and took control on Sept. 30, 1991.

Before President Clinton would order any invasion -- which his advisers say he is trying to avoid -- the administration would still need to muster support in Congress and with the public. Polls show the public opposed to an invasion.

Senior administration officials have said a decision on using force in Haiti could be put on hold until late August.

But they said an invasion could be provoked suddenly by the harassment of the 3,000 Americans in Haiti, widespread attacks on Haitian civilians or a new surge of refugees taking to the seas.

The resolution would divide an invasion and occupation operation into two stages. A U.S.-led multinational force of as many as 15,000 troops would invade Haiti, disarm its weak 7,000-man army, unseat the military junta, take control of the country and start training a new military.

The aim is to restore the democratically elected president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted in the 1991 coup and went into exile in the United States.

The first phase would be roughly patterned after the Persian Gulf war operation, with the United States in command of what might be an international force, although it is not clear what other countries would contribute troops and how much the operation might cost.

Ms. Albright said the United States had obtained commitments from other countries to join the first phase of any operation, although she declined to name those nations.

The resolution says that "the cost of implementing this temporary operation will be borne by the participating states," language that had been omitted from the first draft.

Money is a delicate issue in the United Nations, which is strapped for cash largely because of its many peacekeeping operations.

The United States already has 2,400 troops and 14 warships near the Turks and Caicos Islands, just north of Haiti.

In the second phase, a smaller force of perhaps 6,000 militia and police reporting to the United Nations would take over and would work to bring about political stability while giving further training to the new army and police force.

The resolution states that any invasion force will terminate its mission "when a secure and stable environment has been established."

A letter sent by Father Aristide to Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali helped clear the way for passage of the resolution.

In the letter, Father Aristide called for the international community "to take swift and determined action," but he did not specifically address the issue of a possible invasion.

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