WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration has intensified efforts to gain U.N. support for a U.S.-led invasion of Haiti, and U.S. officials privately said they hoped a vote on the issue could be held by next Friday in the U.N. Security Council.
While declining to use the word "invasion," officials at the White House, State Department and United Nations said the administration is pressing Security Council members to authorize "all means necessary" to restore democracy to Haiti.
The officials said that such language was used in U.N. resolutions preceding the 1991 attack in the Persian Gulf.
Yesterday, 103 members of Congress from both parties released a letter to President Clinton demanding that he seek congressional approval before using force against Haiti's military regime.
"It would be a major mistake for the president to send troops into Haiti without first calling on the Congress to fully debate this major issue," said Rep. Benjamin Gilman, D-N.Y.
Standing next to him, Rep. Robert Livingston, R-La., demanded to know why U.S. troops should be put at risk to restore an "unbalanced, un-American, leftist, violent, defrocked priest," referring to Haiti's exiled president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Despite placing intensified pressure on U.S. allies, administration officials continued to insist yesterday that no invasion of Haiti is imminent. White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said officials merely were laying the diplomatic groundwork so that Mr. Clinton "can exercise any and all options."
Asked why the White House will not say it wants to invade Haiti, Ms. Myers answered, "That's not what we're saying at all."
She described the possible mission as "a force to go into a hostile environment and create a permissive environment" for international rebuilding.
Meanwhile, military sources suggested that Pentagon planners have been looking at mid-August as a possible time for an attack on Haiti, but that with nearly 5,000 U.S. sailors and Marines already deployed in the Caribbean, and the administration pressing for a fast U.N. resolution, such a timetable might be speeded up.
After several weeks of military buildup, there are now 16 U.S. Navy ships in the vicinity of Haiti, and U.S. troops have staged several assault exercises, including one on a small island near Haiti. There also are more than a dozen U.S. Coast Guard cutters in the area to intercept Haitian refugees.
Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and other U.S. officials have been holding meetings with Security Council members for the past two days. Ms. Albright said yesterday that she was encouraged by their response.