Haiti invasion threat

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THE OVERTHROW of the military regime in Haiti by an invasion if sanctions fail is now supported by a majority of Caribbean and Latin American countries, according to US officials.

After banning commercial flights and financial links with Haiti last week, President Clinton would suffer serious political damage if he fails to get rid of the island's rulers.

William Gray, Mr Clinton's special adviser on Haiti, says the US will not take military action to restore democracy unilaterally 'at this point'. But a majority of 30 countries in the western hemisphere consulted by US diplomats in the last two weeks say they support, or are prepared to join, multilateral military intervention.

Ian Martin, a specialist on Haiti at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the US is now wholly committed to ousting the military rulers. He says a crisis is possible in the two weeks before commercial flights end on 25 June as foreigners - including 6,000 Americans - leave together with children of the Haitian elite.

This could spark off a panic and attacks on foreigners, provoking US intervention. Mr Martin says: 'It could come because of incidents involving foreigners. There have been three in the last week, including one involving marines at the US embassy.' Responding to the tougher sanctions, the regime declared a state of emergency at the weekend.

Mr Clinton is under intense political pressure in the US over Haitian refugees. Black Americans are demanding they be given asylum while the state of Florida, to which most sail, wants to keep them out.