UN ready to endorse Haiti invasion

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NEW YORK - The UN Security Council was close yesterday to endorsing a possible US-led invasion of Haiti, writes Peter Pringle. The council's proposed resoultion would give the US and its allies authority to use 'all necessary means' to restore exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power, according to diplomats.

The resolution has two phases - the invasion and peace-keeping - but a 32-nation group of Latin American and Caribbean nations has favoured giving diplomacy and sanctions more time to work before passing the resolution. They are also wary of giving the US such a free hand in rebuilding 'rogue' and 'failed' states such as Haiti.

Similar resolutions, such as the one authorising the invasion of Kuwait, or the landings in Somalia, were in response to an outside invasion or essentially humanitarian missions.

The resolution sets no deadline for Haiti's military rulers to leave, thus allowing the US to invade immediately if it wants to. The US has always insisted any final decision about an invasion should rest with President Clinton.

The Western powers and Russia have approved the resolution, but China and the group of Latin American and Caribbean states have held back. Brazil has led the group of Latin American states in seeking clarification of certain military details, plus a formal declaration of support for an invasion from Mr Aristide. The US expected to receive that declaration yesterday.

In prolonging discussion on the draft of the resolution, the Latin American group has sought to underscore the extent to which it would be seen as a departure from previous ones in the freedom given to the US. At least 15,000 troops would be involved in any multinational invasion and 6,000 used for the follow-up peace-keeping mission to create a 'stable environment'.