[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 10:46 GMT
Aristide: US forced me to leave
Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Friends of Aristide said he was abducted
The exiled former President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has said that he was forced to leave his country.

In interviews with US television and news agencies, he said he had been the victim of a "coup d'etat".

He said he had signed documents relinquishing power because of fears that violence would erupt if he did not comply with the demands of US agents.

But he repeatedly refused to answer direct questions about whether he had been kidnapped.

Earlier, friends of Mr Aristide in the US had alleged that the former president was abducted by American agents - allegations described by US Secretary of State Colin Powell as "absolutely baseless, absurd".

The US state department has begun working on the creation of a "council of elders" including Mr Aristide's interim successor, Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre, to prepare for new elections and regroup the police force.

Canadian soldier at Port-au-Prince airport
US marines
Canadian special forces
French troops
French police
More countries expected to join later

Mr Aristide is now in the Central African Republic with his wife and children after leaving Haiti on Sunday on a US plane, a day ahead of the entry of rebels into the capital Port-au-Prince.

An advance guard of American marines and French soldiers has also arrived at the capital - part of an international force authorised by the United Nations, expected to number less than 5,000.

Rebel leaders say they hope the new government will reinstate the army, which was disbanded in 1995 by Mr Aristide.

'Thousands may get killed'

In an interview with CNN television, Mr Aristide said he had been in his palace in Port-au-Prince when "American agents" arrived to take him to the airport.

I call it again and again a coup d'etat
Jean-Bertrand Aristide

"I finally realised it was true, we were going to have bloodshed," said Mr Aristide.

"And when I asked how many people may get killed, they said thousands may get killed."

He claimed he was unaware of where he and his family were being flown to.

"We spent 20 hours in that plane without knowing where we were going, without having the right to contact our people," he said.

Luis Moreno, the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Port-au-Prince, said six US security guards had been present at the departure and that nothing had been done to coerce the president into leaving.

"At no time did anyone threaten him or coerce him, it was all very courteous and polite," Mr Moreno said.

Mr Powell insisted: "He was not kidnapped. We did not force him onto the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly. And that's the truth."

As a Haitian I am deeply humiliated and saddened at what has happened to my country.
Emerald, Les Cayes, Haiti

The CAR Foreign Minister, Charles Wenezoui, has said that the former Haitian leader is not a prisoner, but a free man.

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says Mr Aristide's supporters in America, including the Democratic party activist the Reverend Jesse Jackson, are outraged.

They are calling for an inquiry into whether the US Central Intelligence Agency had a role in the rebellion which led to the downfall of Mr Aristide and his democratically elected government.

The BBC's Claire Marshall
"It's been a sharp fall for Aristide"

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific