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a66: Events of Dec 17: transcript of State Dept remarks (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

State Department Daily Press Briefing
December 17, 2001
Briefer:  Richard Boucher, Spokesman


-- Situation Update on Violence/Attacks on National Palace

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any
statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Richard, can you talk about Haiti and what your understanding of
the situation is there?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's probably similar to your understanding of the
situation there, because basically we have seen a lot of different reports,
and we don't have much confirmation. 

What we know is an unknown number of armed assailants attacked the
presidential palace in Port-au-Prince early this morning. There are also
unconfirmed reports of several casualties, as well as attacks on other
government facilities. It appears that government security units have
repelled the attacks, and that the police are actively searching for the

That is not a lot of definitive information. What I will say is the
situation in Port-au-Prince is tense. There are reports of roadblocks, tire
burnings, shootings, mobs attacking political opposition members and
offices. We would ask all Haitians to remain calm, urge the Government of
Haiti to take appropriate measures to restore and maintain calm. The US
Embassy in Port-au-Prince is closed. They have closed all the offices today
following reports about this morning's attack, and they have urged US
citizens in Haiti to stay at home today and to monitor radio reports
concerning the security situation.

QUESTION:  Do you want to say a word in defense of democracy?

MR. BOUCHER: Defense of democracy. We have looked at the leadership in
Haiti as being a legitimate, elected leadership, we recognize the results
of the last election, and obviously we stand with people who are elected
against those who would seek to overthrow them by force.

QUESTION: Richard, just maybe 10 days ago, the Foreign Minister and the
Finance Minister of Haiti were here and they were told in no uncertain
terms that unless they got their act together that the US would continue to
oppose multilateral assistance and basically all non-humanitarian
assistance to them.

That, I assume, is still the position. But now what you're saying and what
you just said to George, are you saying that you want the Haitian
Government, as it stands now, to go after these people?

MR. BOUCHER: We have had a lot of concerns about the election process in
Haiti, particularly with regard to the Assembly elections, the legislative
elections. We have looked to the Government of Haiti to carry out a series
of steps to improve democracy. I don't have any update on that. But,
indeed, we have been quite critical of some aspects of the Government of
Haiti's performance.

On the other hand, there is a considerable difference between that and
allowing the overthrow of the results of a legitimate election by armed
force. So I don't think there is any contradiction in that today.


State Department Daily Press Briefing
Briefer: Richard Boucher , Spokesman
December 18, 2001


19-20 Mob Violence and Need for Dialogue

QUESTION: Richard, yesterday, when you were asked about Haiti, you came
down quite strongly on the side of the elected government of President
Aristide. There are a lot of charges today from the opposition that this
entire incident was cooked up by Aristide's people in order to further
crack down on the opposition there. Have you -- one, have you sorted out
what basically -- do you know what actually happened there?  And two, if
you have -- well, I'll let you answer that.

MR. BOUCHER: I think yesterday I condemned the violence and said that we
were always in favor of elected governments when it came to being against
the violence. But we didn't have a lot of information on who exactly
perpetrated this attack, and what was involved. And frankly, we don't have
much more today. Port-au-Prince is calm today, one day after this attack on
the presidential palace. And the ensuing mob violence, which I don't think
had started, or had gotten to the proportions that it finally did, about
the time that we were talking. Our Embassy in Port-au-Prince is open to the
public for business. The airlines have resumed their flights. But we make
clear that we condemn the violent attack on the palace, as well as the mob
violence that followed. The armed assault on the palace and the response of
pro-government supporters, which included violent attacks on political
opposition offices and homes, is extremely troubling. Yesterday's violence
underscores the need for dialogue and reconciliation among all elements of
Haitian society. The Organization of American States has actively pursued
efforts to broker a resolution to Haiti's electoral crisis, and we have
strongly supported the OAS Secretary General in these efforts.

We urge the Government political party, Lavalas, and the opposition
coalition, the Democratic Convergence, to participate in mediation efforts
led by the OAS and to reach a national agreement resolving election issues.
And we call on the Government of Haiti to protect the rights of all
Haitians, to take appropriate measures to discourage vigilante actions, to
respect the rule of law and to maintain order. 

So you do have a situation that evolved there, and particularly the mob
violence that occurred after the attacks was something of great concern to

QUESTION: So is it fair to say that in general you are always going to side
with the elected government over any kind of attack that is going on? But
if that attack is provoked, or started by that government, you're not going
to like that? In general.

MR. BOUCHER: You are trying to get me to make an obvious comment. In
general, yes. Does that apply to this particular situation? I don't know.
We don't have a lot of information about how these attacks started. We
certainly believe that the mob violence that ensued is something that the
government should take responsibility for stopping, and they need to make
more efforts to ensure the rule of law and that calm can prevail.