Impatient Clinton tightens Haiti grip

BILL CLINTON said yesterday he was tightening sanctions on Haiti, including an end to all commercial flights to the island, in an effort to force out the military regime which seized power three years ago.

The US will also try to target the richest six families in Haiti - supporters of the ruling junta - by freezing their assets in the US. There will be an effort to reduce the flow of remittances from Haitians working in the US.

The US President said: 'The message is simple: Democracy must be restored. The coup must not endure.' He said the Dominican Republic had agreeed to the stationing of a multilateral monitoring group on its territory to stop the flow of smuggled goods.

The main air links between Haiti and the outside world are through Miami and New York. US officials say these flights make up to 65 per cent of the total and a further 25 per cent are through France and Canada, both likely to co-operate in sanctions. Mr Clinton said he had also agreed to use Jamaica and the Turks and Caicos islands as staging posts for interviews with Haitian refugees intercepted by US patrol boats at sea. To allow foreigners to leave the island the air flight ban will only go into effect on 25 June.

The new sanctions are in addition to those imposed by the UN Security Council on 21 May. The US says it will exhaust all political, economic and diplomatic means before it resorts to force to restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was overthrown in 1991, but William Gray, Mr Clinton's new adviser on Haiti, appeared determined yesterday to force out the military government.

Although Mr Clinton has tried to avoid an invasion he has now invested so much political capital in removing the military government from Haiti that he may be forced to act if they refuse to step down. The White House believes, however, that by limiting the 'business elite supporting the coup leaders' in their dealings with US banks it can put pressure on the army commander, Raoul Cedras, and the Port-au-Prince police chief, Michel Francois.