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SLUG: 2-313513 Congress / Haiti (L)









INTRO: African-American members of Congress met with President Bush Wednesday to urge U-S action to support Haitian President Aristide. Calling the situation in Haiti a near "catastrophe", members of the Congressional Black Caucus say the United States is not doing enough to prevent more bloodshed. V-O-A's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill:

TEXT: Congressman Elijah Cummings said he and other members of the Black Caucus expressed their concerns about loss of life that has already occurred, and what could develop into a humanitarian crisis.

One of the proposals he and others delivered to Mr. Bush was for creation of a "corridor" that would permit the free flow of international assistance to those in need:


Create an avenue by which humanitarian assistance could go to the Haitian people and make sure that that quarter was secured by troops from the United States and any other coalition partners that he may be able to bring together.

/// END ACT ///

The Bush administration says it is working with allies, including Canada, France and other United Nations members, to work out a peaceful solution to the standoff between President Aristide and opposition groups.

President Bush says he would support an international civilian police force to be sent to Haiti, once a settlement to the country's political crisis is obtained.

However, on Wednesday France went further suggesting that it is time for Mr. Aristide to resign.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus rejected this.

Speaking earlier on Capitol Hill, Congressman Charles Rangel, had this reaction to the French position:

/// RANGEL ACT ///

Seldom do we follow the lead of the French government and this underscores that tradition. The fact remains that Colin Powell has indicated that we will support the will of the voters, and try to reach some kind of accord with the opposition.

/// END ACT ///

/// OPT /// Congressman Rangel noted that hours earlier, Mr. Aristide had phoned members of Congress reiterating his determination not to step down:

/// RANGEL ACT ///

This isn't a question of who is right or wrong, the French or Canadians. What we are here to say today is that we don't want anymore Haitian blood on American hands, on the international community's hands. And no matter what the French or anyone think of Aristide, we cannot have his life taken away on our watch.


The lawmakers met for about 90 minutes with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, and the President joining in the discussion later.

Congressman Cummings says they urged Mr. Bush to do everything in his power to protect President Aristide and his government:


We made it very clear to the president. Many may disagree with regard to the way Mr. Aristide has run the country, but the fact is that we in this country have gone all around the world to protect democracies, and here we have one 650 miles away, a leader who was elected by a democratic process and that we must stand up (support).

/// END ACT ///

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been sharply critical of Bush administration policies not only in Haiti but also in Liberia, saying the United States cannot pursue what they call a "double standard" in supporting some democracies but not others.

African-American lawmakers have also been very critical of the Haitian opposition, saying many of them have links to Haiti's dictatorial past. (signed)


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