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Saturday, February 21, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Foreigners race to get out of Haiti
By Mark Stevenson
Later in the day, American and other diplomats handed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide a plan that calls for an interim governing council to advise him, and appointment of a prime minister agreeable to both sides.
But both sides were almost certain to reject it Aristide because he has said he will not negotiate with the opposition, and rival leaders because they want Aristide to step down.
Pro-government militants burned 15 homes in the western port of St. Marc overnight, and three people died in the fires, independent Radio Galaxie reported.
A day after the U.S. government urged Americans to leave Haiti, more than 200 people from the United States, France and Canada stood in lines yesterday at Toussaint Louverture International Airport, anxious to get out.
"We knew that it was right for us to leave. It's just hard," said Nancy McWilliams, an 18-year-old from Ottawa who abandoned a volunteer job at a children's home in northern Cap-Haitien.
No foreigners have been killed in the uprising, which began Feb. 5 and has claimed the lives of more than 60 Haitians, about 40 of them police officers. There are an estimated 30,000 foreigners in Haiti, including about 20,000 Americans.
All 70 Peace Corps volunteers are being pulled out of Haiti. They were in a convoy heading to the Dominican Republic yesterday.
American missionary Gerald St. Vincent, waiting for a flight to Miami, said Haiti will resolve its problems "only if they have help from outside sources not less help but more."
Some foreigners vowed to remain.
American missionary Terry Snow, who planned to stay, said six truckloads of pro-Aristide gunmen torched seven houses in his seaside neighborhood in St. Marc. As their houses burned, residents jumped into the sea and gunmen fired into the air to keep them from returning to land, he said.
The uprising began when rebels took the city of Gonaives. They have since pushed police out of more than a dozen towns in the north. They accuse Aristide of breaking promises to help the poor and of driving the country into chaos while quietly supporting attacks on opponents charges the president denies.
The proposal presented yesterday reflects heightened international pressure to break the stalemate between Aristide and his opponents. It would also disarm politically allied street gangs.
Also, Caribbean nations appealed to the international community to provide security assistance to end the rebellion.
Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell of the Bahamas, speaking to a special U.N. General Assembly meeting on the situation, said the United Nations "has a crucial role to play in developing and executing solutions to this urgent crisis."
But none of the speakers brought up the issue of whether to send a U.N. peacekeeping force or other troops.
Protesters at an anti-government march yesterday vehemently denounced any negotiations that could leave in Aristide power.
"Aristide is a scorpion!" about 1,000 marchers chanted, until they were attacked by Aristide supporters, who threw rocks and bottles and then opened fire.
More than 20 people were injured and at least two were shot, hospital officials and the Red Cross said.
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