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WILL U.S. POLICY TURN HAITI INTO A WAR-TORN SOMALIA?

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The Clinton administration's policy toward Haiti is receiving unsparing criticism from a variety of outside experts, some of whom envision a debacle of Somalia proportions in the Caribbean.

"We've gotten into an extremely tight corner. There's almost no way out except military intervention," said Ernest Preeg, a former ambassador to Haiti. He describes the policy to date as a "tragic failure" - one that has devastated the country without restoring de-mo-cra-cy.Ambassador Lawrence Pezzullo, a top adviser on Haiti until he was forced out in late April, said the administration is on a straight-line path toward military intervention for lack of other options. And, he said in a recent interview, use of force would be an "act of great folly."

Elliott Abrams, a former top aide to President Ronald Reagan, said the policy has been based to an excessive degree on domestic political pressures.

He cited the anti-Haitian refugee sentiments of the Florida congressional delegation and the insistence of the Congressional Black Caucus that deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide be returned to power in Haiti.

Questions about Aristide's democratic credentials were raised by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and a former National Security Council colleague, Eric D.K. Melby, who outlined their views recently in The New York Times.

"Hardly a democrat, he (Aristide) is part of the problem,' they wrote. "Although he is the product of an election, his authoritarian behavior while in office does not auger well for democracy."