Seventeen months after U.S. pressure helped restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power, the Clinton administration is eager to claim credit for bringing back democracy to the hemisphere's poorest country. But several problems remain that may yet turn the Haiti issue into an election-year loser for the president:

- On one side are Aristide's lawyers, a well-heeled bunch that includes former Maryland Rep. Michael Barnes and Burton Wides, a former legal counsel for several Democratic senators. For several months, they've been pressuring U.S. authorities to turn over documents that were seized by U.S. Army troops when they landed in October 1994. Although American officials have agreed to return the documents, Aristide's lawyers are still angry because of the Pentagon's decision to withhold names and "contextual information" about U.S. citizens mentioned in the material.Wides believes the documents - if returned in full - would reveal close ties between U.S. intelligence officials and the "thugs" who ruled Haiti until Aristide's election.

- On the other side are Republican lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., who want something done about 22 "political" killings that have taken place since Aristide's return and continue to go unsolved.

Correspondence between Haitian officials and the FBI, obtained by our associate Jan Moller, suggests that trouble erupted last summer after FBI agents requested interviews with several top Haitian government officials. The Haitian government refused to comply unless several conditions were met. For example, government lawyers insisted that all interviews be transcribed and that witnesses have a chance to review and correct their testimony - which would have been a sharp departure from normal FBI procedure.

- Some congressional sources are also questioning the circumstances surrounding the death of Michel Gonzalez, Aristide's former next-door neighbor, who was gunned down in his driveway in broad daylight last May.

According to several sources, Aristide or his surrogates had asked Gonzalez to sell his property to the Haitian president on at least two occasions. Aristide reportedly wanted the extra land to help add a security perimeter around his property, an expansive tract located near the Port-au-Prince airport.

- Perhaps the biggest threat to Haiti's stability is economic stagnation. Nearly a year ago, a House delegation visiting Haiti observed that "incentives to encourage private sector investment must be implemented in weeks, not months, to create sustainable jobs and generate economic growth."