US adds the final touch to plans for Haiti invasion

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WASHINGTON - The US edged closer to the invasion of Haiti yesterday as Warren Christopher, the Secretary of State, said 1,500 troops from 17 countries, including Britain, would reinforce a peace-keeping force in the aftermath of a US landing, writes Patrick Cockburn.

Mr Christopher said the training of these forces was not any occasion for delay. Earlier he said that US credibility was on the line in Haiti and the military leaders, who overthrew the elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1971, would have to go one way or another.

The Clinton administration has now so far committed itself to an invasion that it will be impossible to back away from the rhetoric of recent days. The entry of foreign troops will take place in two stages: A military assault by elite troops, followed by peace-keeping forces to enforce security.

Republicans are strongly criticising President Bill Clinton's proposed action and predicting a wave of popular revulsion in the US if there are any American casualties. Senator Robert Dole says he assumes the invasion will come in the next two or three weeks and says he will challenge Mr Clinton's right to send troops to Haiti.

A 12-man British training team will fly to Puerto Rico today to aid the formation of a 300-member battalion drawn from the smaller Caribbean nations. It will not take part in operations in Haiti. The arrival of non-American troops to look after peace-keeping is important to President Aristide who does not want to return to Port-au- Prince as a US client.

There are still some hints that Lt Gen Raoul Cedras, the Haitian army commander, could avoid an invasion by stepping down. Mr Christopher said: 'I think that modalities can easily be taken care of if they simply would indicate that they are prepared to vacate their offices and permit the restoration of democracy.'

The lesson of Clinton administration's efforts to reach a compromise solution over the last year, however, is that the army will not share power with anybody.

(Photograph omitted)