French Ambassador Being Expelled; Other Attacks on Embassy Workers
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ France’s ambassador, who sheltered supporters of ousted President Jean- Bertrand Aristide, was ordered to leave Haiti this weekend amid growing anger over an international embargo pressing for Aristide’s return.
Haiti’s provisional government said Thursday that Ambassador Jean Rafael Dufour had been ″declared undesirable″ and was given 48 hours to leave. He will no longer be considered a diplomat as of 5 p.m. Sunday, the Foreign Ministry said.
The French Foreign Ministry in Paris today expressed concern at the development, for its security ″implications″ for the French community and for several dozen Haitians who have taken refuge in its embassy.
Meanwhile, witnesses reported that gangs - possibly members of security forces - shot and killed a Haitian bodyguard to the U.S. ambassador and raped a female companion Thursday.
In another attack, 15 gunmen tried to raid the house of a chauffeur for the Venezuelan embassy, but were unable to get in, radio reports said.
It wasn’t known if the attacks were politically motivated or simple crime. France, Venezuela and the United States have made the most forceful calls for Aristide’s return since the Sept. 30 military coup.
Haitian officials said earlier Thursday that talks between Aristide and Haitian lawmakers on his possible return would be held in Cartagena, Colombia. No date was set for the talks, which would be brokered by the OAS delegation.
On Wednesday, a delegation from the 34-nation Organization of American States, which has imposed an embargo on Haiti, ended a three-day visit to press for Aristide’s return.
Dufour said by telephone he was confident he would be back soon, with Aristide as president. ″I will see you soon in Port-au-Prince, not in Paris,″ he said.
Military officials and politicians opposed to Aristide’s reinstatement have accused Dufour of meddling in Haitian affairs. The army fiercely opposes Aristide’s return, and some have vowed to kill him if he tries.
Dufour personally intervened with the military to protect Aristide when the president was ousted, and provided shelter for weeks at the embassy for up to 20 Haitian backers of Aristide, including ousted Prime Minister Rene Preval.
Unconfirmed reports suggest Preval and others may have moved this week to other embassies, but the comment by the French Foreign Ministry today indicated that some remained.
In Paris, Daniel Bernard, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said Foreign Minister Roland Dumas was monitoring the situation hour-by-hour.
″We need to take into account these new developments and their implications for the security of the French community, for several dozen Haitians who have found refuge in the embassy and for French diplomatic personnel,″ he said.
Last Friday, the government asked Dufour to leave but set no deadline. He ignored the request. He also ignored a request for the names of Aristide supporters at the embassy.
The OAS embargo, backed by the United States, has created a severe fuel shortage in Haiti and badly hurt industry, especially export-oriented businesses in this desperately poor Caribbean nation of 6.4 million people.
Aristide, an activist Roman Catholic priest, took office in February after a landslide victory in December’s elections, the first free ones since Haiti won independence from France in 1804.
The army and many politicians charge he abused his power. Aristide says he was ousted because his reforms would have curbed the power of the army and wealthy Haitians. At least 200 people were killed in the coup.