Go or we invade, Clinton tells Haiti junta

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PRESIDENT Bill Clinton last night sought popular support for an invasion of Haiti and warned the Haitian junta that they must restore democratic rule. 'Your time is up,' he said in a nationally televised address. 'Leave now or we will force you from power.'

He said the US had exhausted diplomacy and added that the time had come to end the atrocities which had forced tens of thousands of Haitian boat people to flee. The US 'must restore democracy and uphold the reliability of our commitment around the world'.

The invasion could come at any time. Two US aircraft carriers will have joined the twenty naval vessels already off the Haitian coast by the weekend. Press representatives are being flown to the carriers on Sunday, implying that the invasion will come shortly afterwards.

In a small concession to the Haitian military and their supporters Mr Clinton said Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the exiled President whom the US is pledged to restore, has promised to step down when his term in office expires in 1996.

Washington still continues to hope that the nerve of the Haitian military commanders cracks as they watch the armada assembling off their shores. William Perry, the Defense Secretary, yesterday said there were signs of 'turmoil' in Port-au-Prince.

The US believes that if one the three main Haitian leaders - Lieutenant-General Raoul Cedras, the army commander, the chief of staff Philippe Biamby and police chief Michel Francois - decides to leave the country then the whole regime might start to unravel.

To give them an extra incentive go into voluntary exile peacefully President Clinton has agreed to offer them safe havens abroad and access to their frozen bank accounts. The offer to the three men who led the 1991 coup against Mr Aristide would include a guarantee that they would not be prosecuted. The US would provide an aircraft for them to leave.

But there was no sign last night that the Haitian leaders were about to cave in. 'As commander in chief of the armed forces of Haiti I have been ordered to defend my country,' General Cedras said, adding that 'the early stages of the invasion of Haiti are under way'.

Speaking on CBS television, he warned of a 'massacre and civil war', and pleaded for dialogue with the US, 'so for the first time our side can be heard'.

Mr Clinton is facing the most serious political crisis of his administration as he prepares to launch a military intervention which is rejected by a majority of Americans. The White House has been fending off a vote in Congress but, if the leaders of the Haitian junta do not go, may launch an invasion before Congress meets next week.

Anxiety grows on border, page 13

(Photograph omitted)