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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 05:56 GMT
Haiti power-sharing plan rejected
Residents of St Marc carry their belongings as they walk around a freight container and vehicles that form a barricade across the main road that connects northern Haiti and Port-au-Prince
Ordinary Haitans are trying to protect their belongings
Haiti's political opposition has rejected a US-backed power-sharing plan aimed at ending the country's crisis.

They have refused to take part in any government which includes President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and insist he must resign.

Mr Aristide - who had agreed to the plan - has called for international help to end the rebel uprising.

The rebels control much of the north of the country and threaten to move into the capital Port-au-Prince within days.

The political opposition, which does not back the armed rebellion, said it would accept nothing short of Mr Aristide's resignation.

"We sent our position and a signed letter saying no to the proposal," Paul Denis of the opposition Democratic Platform told the Associated Press.

Bloodbath warning

The announcement came after a deadline expired for them to respond to the plan. That deadline had been extended for 24 hours on Monday in the hope of reaching an agreement.

Haitian residents loot the house of a pro-government supporter before it was burned down in Cap Haitien
Cap-Haitien is said to be descending into lawlessness
The plan would leave President Aristide in place until 2006, but with reduced powers.

Mr Aristide appealed for foreign intervention to prevent a bloodbath in the event of a rebel attack on Port-au-Prince.

"Should those killers come to Port-au-Prince, you may have thousands of people who may be killed," he told a news conference.

The three-week-old insurgency in Haiti has left at least 70 people dead.


The stalemate in the peace efforts has caused alarm among the international community.

The UK and Australia on Tuesday urged their citizens to leave the country following similar warnings from countries including the US, which has sent marines to protect its embassy.

France, the former colonial power, is stepping up its efforts to help end the crisis.

France's United Nations Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said diplomats were considering proposing "a police force, or a civilian force" for approval by the UN Security Council.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin will meet representatives of the Haitian government and political opposition in Paris this week.

Lawlessness

Rebel factions have already overrun the country's second city, Cap-Haitien and the territory under their control is said to be rapidly descending into lawlessness.

The BBC's Stephen Gibbs in Port-au-Prince says rebel leaders have been speaking in confident mood about the type of rule they aim to establish if, as they intend, they take over.

They say that the army would be reformed but that their government would not be a military one.

Haiti's neighbours have said they will not accept the overthrow of the democratically-elected Mr Aristide, whose is accused by his opponents of rigging elections four years ago.

The Dominican Republic has sent 1,200 troops to reinforce its shared border with Haiti, AP quoted military spokesman Col Juan Julio Tejeda as saying.





WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Stephen Gibbs
"With the only political rescue plan in tatters, Haiti faces an ever more violent future"



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