In a last effort to avert bloodshed, President Clinton dispatched a U.S. delegation led by former President Jimmy Carter to Haiti on Friday to meet with its military dictators.
White House officials stressed that the special envoys had been instructed "not to negotiate" with Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and his associates but to insist that they depart Haiti immediately or be re-moved by force."Nothing has changed. No negotiations. Only the terms under which they must leave will be communicated to them," a senior White House official said.
Joining Carter will be Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were expected to leave for Haiti on Saturday.
Carter, White House officials said, had been trying to persuade Clinton for several days to send a small delegation to meet with Cedras. They said Clinton spoke twice to the former president, Powell and Nunn over the past two days before deciding to approve the mission.
Carter, who left office in 1981, has established himself as a formidable diplomat in recent years, often negotiating solutions to touchy problems around the globe, including the breakthrough earlier this year that led to talks on nuclear issues between the United States and North Korea. The Haitian leaders invited him to meet with them some time ago.
White House officials said Powell and Nunn were added to the delegation because of their expertise in military matters. "They can lay out in pretty graphic detail what that force assembling off Haiti will do if the president orders them into combat," one official said.
The extraordinary diplomatic mission was announced amid reports that Clinton had authorized the Central Intelligence Agency some time ago to spend up to $12 million on covert operations in Haiti, including a plan to move Cedras and his two cohorts - police commander Michel Francois and Gen. Philippe Biamby - into exile.
Senior administration officials denied Friday that the president had, in effect, authorized "payoffs" or bribery to get the three military leaders to step aside, but they acknowledged that the Haitians would be allowed to leave with their own financial assets, which are estimated to be substantial.
One official, however, conceded that the U.S. government could end up paying for the transportation and initial settling costs of family members and associates the three leaders take with them. In fact, one official revealed, the three men have indicated a willingness to leave, but only if Clinton would allow them to take their family and some supporters with them.
Defense Secretary William Perry refused to say in an interview with CNN what offers, if any, had been made to the Haitian leaders. But he acknowledged that discussions were being held with them through their "emissaries."
The last-ditch effort at a peaceful solution came as Clinton tried to shore up support for an invasion during a hastily arranged meeting at the White House with the 24 nations that have promised to commit peacekeeping forces after the U.S. military establishes order in Haiti.
The meeting was used to provide an extraordinary forum for exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to lay out his vision of a "new democratic Haiti."
In an address to Clinton and other leaders of the so-called Haiti coalition, Aristide appealed to the army in his country to lay down its arms, promising there would be no retribution for human rights abuses when he returns to power on the shoulder of U.S. military might.
"Stop the violence. Do not be afraid," Aristide said in the televised speech. "We say . . . no to vengeance, no to retaliation. Let us embrace peace."
Aristide promised that when he returns to the office he was forced to leave under the barrel of a gun in September 1991, he would oversee the restoration of a democracy that would bring peace and justice for all.
He also promised to move quickly to rebuild Haiti's educational system, to restore depleted forest lands that have turned Haiti's once gorgeous hills into an arid wasteland, and to build an economy that can provide a reasonable standard of living for the country's 6 million people. As an inducement to the Haitian defense forces to give up their weapons, he pledged to create civilian jobs for them.
Aristide, a Catholic priest, acknowledged, however, that Haiti would likely remain one of the poorest nations in the Caribbean for the foreseeable future. But he stressed to the Haitian people that they would be better off living under democracy than the brutal dictatorships that have controlled the country throughout its history.
Clinton, responding to Aristide's address, said the offer of reconciliation would be "critical" to Aristide's success in trying to re-establish democracy in Haiti.
In his brief remarks, Clinton acknowledged that the United States and its allies in the region would play a vital and limited financial role in helping to revitalize Haiti's economy and ensure that democracy takes hold. But he stressed that most U.S. forces, whether committed to Haiti forcefully or peacefully over the next few days, would remain only a few months, and that all multinational peace-keeping forces would be out by early 1996.