Ship With 650 Marines Aboard Takes Station Off Haiti
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Navy amphibious assault ship with about 650 Marines aboard has joined the multinational force enforcing the partial embargo on goods to Haiti, the Defense Department said Sunday night. But it said they were there strictly on standby.
The troops aboard the USS Nassau has completed training exercises at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before the ship sailed into position off Haiti, said a Pentagon spokeswoman, Army Lt. Col. Stephanie Hoehne.
Eleven naval vessels from the United States, Canada amd Britain, augmented by aircraft and U.S. Coast Guard cutters have been enforcing a nearly 2-week- old United Nations embargo on shipments of oil and weapons to Haiti. The move is intended to pressure the Caribbean nation’s military leaders to return power to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
President Clinton had ordered the Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to the region to be available for contingencies, such as helping to evacuate U.S. personnel from Haiti should their safety be threatened.
Ms. Hoehne said the Marine contingent, although part of the embargo operation, is ″simply there as a standby force, per the president’s directive.″
She noted that the Nassau, which carries trucks, armored vehicles and helicopters along with the troops, is the flagship of the commander of the joint task force enforcing the embargo, Rear Adm. Harold Gehman.
ABC News first reported the movement of the Nassau from Guantanamo, which is about 90 miles from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.