PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Secretary of State Colin
Powell gave assurances yesterday of full U.S. support for
Haiti’s interim government but said democracy cannot flourish
until politically motivated private armies lay down their
weapons.

From the AP
And here is a cutline for after the streamer. This should be two lines long as well, and should tell a bit about the photo, the people in it, and all that fun stuff. (PHOTOG/Daily)

“Without disarmament, Haiti’s democracy will be at
risk,” Powell said at a news conference with Haiti’s
interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue. Latortue told Powell that
all Haiti’s political parties agree that municipal,
legislative and presidential elections, initially planned for next
month, should be held in 2005.

Powell said prospects are good for sending a U.N.-sponsored
peacekeeping force to replace the U.S.-led multinational force that
arrived shortly after the Feb. 29 departure of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Almost 2,000 U.S. troops are serving in Haiti and are expected
to leave in June, along with Canadian and Chilean troops. Their
combined total is about 3,600 troops.

Caribbean leaders have refused to participate in the U.S.-led
international force, angry that the U.N. Security Council refused
their urgent plea to send troops in time to save Aristide,
Haiti’s first democratically elected leader.

Powell rejected proposals by some of Haiti’s Caribbean
neighbors for an inquiry into circumstances of Aristide’s
sudden departure five weeks ago. They alleged the United States
coerced Aristide into leaving.

“I don’t think any purpose would be served by such
an inquiry,” Powell said. “Haiti was on the verge of a
total security collapse.

“On the last weekend in February, I think we averted a
bloodbath,” he added.

Aristide initially took up residence in the Central African
Republic. He went to Jamaica about three weeks ago for family
reasons, the Jamaican government said. Little has been heard from
Aristide since his arrival there.

The Bush administration insists that Aristide left Haiti
voluntarily. Aristide and Haiti’s Caribbean neighbors contend
that Washington pushed him out.

Caribbean countries have not recognized the interim government,
arguing that Aristide is Haiti’s legitimate leader based on
elections held in 2000. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) says Aristide
was the victim of a U.S.-sponsored coup d’etat.

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