Clinton edges towards sending in the Marines: As tension rises over Haiti, Americans are divided about invasion, writes Rupert Cornwell in Washington

THE HAITIAN confrontation moved towards the brink yesterday as the army-controlled government in Port-au-Prince warned it would punish anyone who supported an invasion, while President Bill Clinton came closer than ever to endorsing US military intervention to restore democracy to the country.

Speaking at the end of a week-long European trip, Mr Clinton called Monday's expulsion of 89 human-rights monitors a desperate act by an illegal regime. 'We have got to bring an end to this,' he told a press conference in Berlin, insisting that the defiance of the Haiti's rulers 'validated' his decision to keep the military option open.

From UN headquarters in New York came a similar message, as at the urging of the US the Security Council issued a statement condemning Haiti's behaviour and reiterating its determination to secure a 'rapid and definitive solution' to the crisis. Earlier, Washington's UN envoy, Madeleine Albright, explained that such language referred to the need to make existing sanctions watertight. Even so, the wording fell little short of a tacit blessing for the use of force to topple General Raoul Cedras and his colleagues.

Yesterday the UN reluctantly agreed to comply with the order to remove its mission, within the next day or two. In Haiti itself, the 89 observers representing the UN and the Organisation of American States were preparing to leave, either by charter flight or on an Air France plane to Guadaloupe - one of only three remaining scheduled weekly flights to Haiti after the virtual ban on air traffic imposed from 24 June.

Before departing, the UN team was destroying documents to protect Haitian civilians who had reported human-rights violations since it began work on February 1993. Voicing widespread fears that the expulsions could hasten a fresh round of repression, William Gray, President Clinton's special adviser on Haiti, warned the authorities not to harm any of the UN observers. Such behaviour, he said, would be a 'miscalculation and a tragic mistake'.

But Port-au-Prince seems deterred neither by the international condemnation being heaped upon it, nor the 14 US warships now stationed around Haiti, carrying 2,000 Marines ready to intervene should Pentagon plans for an invasion be given the go-ahead. Almost daring the administration to act, Haitian radio read out a government message yesterday declaring that 'all who call for invasion' would be liable for punishment under the law.

Despite the rising tension, US officials continue to claim that a military intervention is not imminent. One problem is the misgivings of some Caribbean and Latin American countries, and Washington's desire to present any such move as an international, UN-authorised response. Another difficulty, no less tricky for the White House, is strong congressional opposition to any US entanglement.

The spectre is a repeat of Somalia, where after initial success the US-led multinational force was trapped in factional warfare. Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, a widely respected member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the expulsions were 'outrageous', but that an invasion would be a serious error.

'We've got to get over the idea that invading Haiti is going to make democracy easier or life for the people easier,' said Mr Lugar, expressing sentiments stretching well beyond his own party. 'It certainly will make it more difficult for the United States because we will be the government and we will then be the oppressors.'

Public opinion, too, is broadly opposed to invasion. But the President faces scarcely less powerful pressures to act. The overwhelmingly Democratic black caucus in Congress accuses him of racial discrimination in refusing to take in Haitians fleeing their country. The flood of boat people, though abating somewhat in the last 48 hours, threatens none the less swiftly to overwhelm ad hoc plans - embarrassingly rejected by Panama - for other countries to accept the refugees temporarily.

Various pretexts for a US landing exist, from the risk of further human-rights abuses by the Haitian military and police, to the need to protect Americans living in Haiti, the ostensible justification for this month's dispatch of the Marines.

Washington's ever-shifting responses to the crisis have only reinforced Mr Clinton's reputation for foreign policy inconstancy.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice