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HAITIAN PRESIDENT MUSTERS BLUSTER AS NOOSE TIGHTENS

SHARE HAITIAN PRESIDENT MUSTERS BLUSTER AS NOOSE TIGHTENS

The mood at Haiti's presidential palace was grim as the military-installed president vowed to fight back against a possible U.S.-led invasion. "Haiti is on death row," said one politician.

Official bluster mixed with private resignation under President Emile Jonassaint's newly declared state of siege. He acted after the U.N. Security Council OK'd setting up a multinational force, if necessary, to oust Haiti's military rulers and restore democratic gov-ern-ment.Argentina became the first Latin American nation to volunteer publicly for the mission. President Carlos Menem said Monday he was requesting 600 troops for the force.

Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said 14 countries have offered troops, but she has not named them.

The Netherlands said Tuesday that it was ready to contribute troops to a U.N. peacekeeping mission but would not send combat troops. On Monday, Israel offered medical and humanitarian assistance to any U.S.-led peacekeeping effort but turned down a U.S. request to send troops.

Jacking up the pressure even more, the Dominican Republic agreed Monday to allow international surveillance of its border with Haiti, a step the United States hopes will stop the fuel smuggling that has weakened a U.N. trade embargo on Haiti.

The accord provides for U.S. military helicopters to patrol the border along with 88 international observers under the control of the U.S. Atlantic Command.

The Pentagon has said six Huey helicopters and surveillance and communications gear will be dispatched for the mission to theDominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

Jonassaint, who was picked as Haiti's president in May by a minority of army-backed legislators, and some aides remained defiant.

"To those who are preparing to invade, the Haitian people declare that they will fight them in the cities . . . in the countryside . . . in the shacks and in the palaces; they will fight them day and night," said presidential aide Carl Denis.

Yet conversations with others disclosed a sense of resignation about eventual military intervention.

"We waited for the sentence," said politician Gilles Hendrick. "It has been pronounced. It's the electric chair, with no appeal. Haiti is on death row."

Many Haitians, particularly the poor, would welcome a foreign invasion. Some diplomats feel that in a showdown, the average soldier would throw down his weapon and melt into the population.

Sen. Thomas Edy Dupiton, who was at Jonassaint's side during Monday's broadcast, was one of the few who thought violence could still be avoided.

"It's never too late," he said. "We can bring our case before the International Court of Justice."

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Additional Information

News conference

President Clinton plans to hold a prime-time news conference Wednesday night, hoping to garner broader support for universal health-care legislation and spell out his strategy in dealing with Haiti. Tentative time for the news session is 7 p.m. MDT.