U.N. eyes Aristide foes' latest proposal


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- U.N. officials here were assessing an 11th-hour proposal by opposition lawmakers that could enable exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to return this week.

However, no one seemed prepared last night to say whether the proposal could put Haiti back on the path to democracy and end its political crisis.

The lawmakers' plan suggests a series of compromises in the U.N.-brokered accord signed in July by Father Aristide and the army commander, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras.

That accord would have returned Father Aristide to Haiti on Saturday in exchange for the general's resignation. But it broke down after General Cedras, contending that Father Aristide had violated provisions on amnesty and the makeup of his government, refused to resign by Oct. 15 or to guarantee a climate of safety for Father Aristide and his followers.

The plan asks for concessions from Father Aristide before allowing for his return after more than two years in exile. It calls for the Haitian parliament to pass a general amnesty law, for Father Aristide's Cabinet to be expanded to include opposition members, and for the lifting of an international embargo on trade, weapons and petroleum that was reimposed last week.

"We encourage all parties to give the proposal the closest possible scrutiny at the earliest possible time," a statement released yesterday by the U.S. Embassy said.

One diplomat familiar with the negotiations told the Los Angeles Times that the proposal "has been accepted by all parts of the [anti-Aristide] spectrum, even the most intransigent."

Other senior diplomats told the newspaper that the proposal, though significant because it comes from powerful anti-Aristide lawmakers who had successfully foiled previous efforts to return him to Haiti and who appeared to be representing General Cedras, still lacks the necessary components to settle Haiti's dangerous crisis.

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