Security Council poised to renew sanctions on Haiti

THE United Nations Security Council was preparing yesterday to reimpose sanctions on Haiti after protests by gun-wielding militants prevented the docking of a US Navy ship in the Haitian capital. The sanctions would include an oil and arms embargo and freezing foreign assets. There was the possibility of a naval blockade to enforce the sanctions, diplomats said.

The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was due to report to the Council that the Haitian military had repeatedly violated the so-called Governor's Island accords, signed in July and aimed at restoring democracy to Haiti. Mr Boutros-Ghali is to call for renewed sanctions.

The sanctions imposed under UN Resolution 841 were suspended in August after apparent progress was made towards implementing the Governor's Island agreement. Under it, the exiled President, Jean- Bertrand Aristide, was to have been restored to power by 30 October, ending a two-year effort by the US and the UN. But the actions of the Haitian militants have made this uncertain.

The US ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, discussed with Mr Boutros-Ghali conditions for getting both sides to abide by the UN-brokered Governor's Island agreement, which called for the Haitian army chief, General Raoul Cedras, who toppled Mr Aristide in September 1991, to step down. The general was expected to announce his retirement tomorrow.

General Cedras had given the death-blow to the plan for the 600 US soldiers and 700 UN police to assist in the transition to civilian rule by refusing to protect them. Given that he and Lieutenant-Colonel Michel Francois, the Port-au- Prince police chief, effectively control the attaches - police auxiliaries - who stopped 200 US troops landing on Monday, he is making a none too subtle threat of violence against the UN.

President Bill Clinton and the Security Council face the collapse of their policy on Haiti. In return for stepping down, General Cedras and the men behind the 1991 coup, in which at least 1,500 people were killed, were to have been given an amnesty. Yesterday he said that he was 'ready to resign for the good of the nation' if certain conditions were met: he would leave only if a broad amnesty were given to the coup plotters. He did not specify what he meant by broad amnesty.

Alcee Hastings, a Democratic Congressman who saw General Cedras recently, said: 'Quite frankly, his answers amounted to obfuscation. It seems they are looking for any excuse to make the accords collapse.' To ensure that they stay in control, General Cedras and Colonel Francois have relied on some 1,500 attaches to kill and intimidate Aristide supporters.

In Washington, Father Aristide, elected with 67 per cent of the vote in 1990, is sounding less conciliatory about the the Haitian military leaders. 'Those killers stopped the process yesterday and their removal is indispensable to the restoration of democracy. I already have the names to replace them.'