Recent reports saying the United States and others are about to give up efforts to restore Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power have been vigorously denied in Washington and elsewhere. That is reassuring. But what cannot be denied is the fact that the world must get tougher with the corrupt military junta illegally ruling Haiti.

The junta, supported by Haiti's small clique of economic elite, overthrew Aristide in 1991. After two years of international sanctions, the junta agreed to step aside but balked at the last moment.U.N. peacekeepers were prevented from landing in Haiti last October and the junta added new conditions that have effectively canceled the transfer of power. Some two months have passed since Aristide was supposed to be back in office, yet he remains in exile.

Sanctions have been imposed once more, while diplomats try to work out a new negotiated settlement. In the meantime, the murder, intimidation and grinding poverty have caused hundreds of Haitian refugees to attempt to reach U.S. shores in unseaworthy vessels.

Sanctions are an admittedly poor tool in any case, but the weak and ineffective approach taken in Haiti has only caused suffering for the common people while failing to affect the military leaders. The people of Haiti can hardly afford to wait another two years while the junta thumbs its nose at the world and lives in high style.

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The United States and other countries ought to take immediate steps to strike at the junta itself instead of depending on loose economic sanctions mostly centered on arms and oil.

The island nation supposedly will run out of gasoline in another month or two. But the junta leaders shuttle by air to the United States to fill all their personal needs.

The American government ought to limit private flights to and from Haiti. France is talking about freezing the assets of Haiti's military rulers. Those steps should have been taken long ago. At least they are finally getting some serious consideration.

Until the military regime personally feels the pain of sanctions, things will not get better in suffering Haiti.

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