Aristide supporters rally against Bush

In Haiti, protests remain calm as thousands march on the National Palace


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Several thousand supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide marched to the National Palace and shouted anti-Bush slogans yesterday, underlining their resentment over Washington's involvement in his sudden resignation.

The Organization of American States announced that a council of seven "wise men" had been formed to name a new Haitian prime minister and an interim Cabinet within a week.

At the palace, the presidential offices, a crowd that at one point grew to an estimated 5,000 paraded past U.S. Marine guards, many carrying photographs of the former president and chanting "Long live Aristide!" and "Down with George Bush!"

"I want to tell George Bush he has failed," said Daniel Delva, 35. "We don't have a problem with the U.S. military. We don't have a problem with the American people. The problem we have is with the Republicans, because they want war all over the world and don't respect democracy."

Other complaints

Another cluster of people remained at the gates of the palace, waiting to see what the Marines might do. Some of the Marines took up firing positions inside the palace grounds.

"I don't want them to stay in there; I want them to patrol," said Jean Bernarto, 29. "We want the country to be revived. They are here to do that, but up until now, they haven't done anything."

U.S. Ambassador James Foley rejected complaints that the U.S.-led international military force was not doing enough to return security to a nation left in shambles by a four-week revolt in which more than 130 were killed and helped push Aristide to resign and leave the country for exile Sunday.

"The rapid deployment of the multinational interim force was a critical factor in the implementation of peace and stability here," Foley said.

Gen. James T. Hill, commander of the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, made a brief tour of the capital and said security assessment teams were sent the cities of Gonaives and Cap-Haitien to the north in preparation for international military patrols.

Gonaives was the first city to fall to the rebels, on Feb. 5, and Cap-Haitien, the country's second-largest city, followed on Feb. 22. Rebels were thought still to be in control of those cities yesterday, but there were no reports of clashes.

Hill met with interim President Boniface Alexandre, Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, Haitian Police Chief Leon Charles and the commanders of Canadian, Chilean and French forces in Port-au-Prince.

The group discussed how the foreign force and the Haitian National Police would set up a program to disarm the rebels and pro-Aristide militants armed by the government, said Judith Trunzo, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy.

Disarmament efforts

Hill said that rebel leader Guy Philippe still was in the capital and that efforts were under way to get him to stick to his pledge to disarm his men, most of them veterans of the Haitian army that Aristide abolished in 1995.

"We are working with him to get him to lay down his arms, which I believe he will do," Hill said.

Asked whether Haiti needed to revive its army, as Philippe has proposed, Hill said: "There is no need for a Haitian army. I was here when President Aristide disbanded it, and that was the correct thing to do at that time."

The international military presence, meanwhile, grew to about 1,900 yesterday, including 1,200 from the United States, 500 from France, 130 from Chile and 60 from Canada.

Canada announced yesterday that it will send a total of 450 soldiers, and Argentina may send an additional 200 peacekeeping soldiers, Agence France-Presse reported.

More aid sought

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies appealed yesterday for $1.1 million to continue essential health care services in Haiti.

Officials in Geneva said the aid collected by the federation would go to the Haitian Red Cross, which has been overwhelmed by weeks of instability and fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Aristide.

Medical services in need of aid include the national Red Cross' blood drives and its AIDS prevention measures, the statement said.

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