Assets freeze on Haiti military

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IN A fresh effort to force the return of the deposed Haitian leader Jean-Baptiste Aristide to power, the Clinton administration yesterday said it would freeze the personal assets of the island's military leaders and their supporters.

The step, to be coupled with a request to the United Nations for a world-wide programme of sanctions, follows Haiti's rejection of plans to introduce a 500- strong international peace-keeping force to the island to oversee a return to democracy.

In a brief White House statement, President Clinton added that any Haitians considered to be standing in the way of UN-led efforts to broker the return of the democratically-elected President Aristide would be barred from entering the United States.

The US and a group of Western countries imposed a general economic embargo, targeted at the government rather than at individual leaders, shortly after the military coup that overthrew President Aristide in September 1991. Mr Clinton had pledged to black members of the Congress that he would take new steps to force the coup leaders to relinquish power in favour of President Aristide. The promise was reportedly part of a deal to win support from the black congressional caucus for the President's budget programme.

Kweisa Mfume, leader of the black caucus, welcomed the move. 'The situation in Haiti at present we consider an outrage and we are pleased new steps are being taken to correct it.'

The present Haitian leadership disclosed its opposition to the deploymet of the peace force during talks earlier this week with Mr Clinton's special adviser on Haiti, Lawrence Pezzullo, and the UN special envoy, Dante Caputo.

'We shouldn't be willing to play around any more,' Mr Caputo said after the rejection. 'We are being put to a test.'

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