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Haitians harass US diplomats

WASHINGTON - The military government in Haiti directly challenged the United States yesterday by allowing gun-waving plainclothes police to threaten American diplomats and stop a ship with 200 US troops on board from landing in Port-au-Prince, writes Patrick Cockburn.

The US government retaliated by demanding that Haiti explain why the US troops were not permitted to land. Madeleine Albright, the US ambassador to the United Nations, was taking the complaint to the Security Council.

The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, also warned Haiti's police and military that US economic sanctions might be restored unless they honoured the political accord brokered by the UN under which the deposed president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is to return on 30 October.

The gunmen threatened the US charge d'affaires, Vicki Huddleston, and other diplomats, as they waited in the capital to greet the US naval vessel carrying the first of 600 US troops being sent to Haiti to support the transition from military to civilian rule.

General Raoul Cedras, the army commander, and Lieutenant-Colonel Michel Francois, the Port-au-Prince police chief, are believed to control the auxiliary police (attaches) who carried out the attack.