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a667: U.S. resists Caribbean appeal for aid to Haiti (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Jonathan Wright

     NASSAU, Feb 7 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on
Thursday resisted Caribbean attempts to unblock aid to Haiti, saying
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had not done enough on the
domestic political front.
     Members of the Caribbean Community CARICOM have asked the United
States and other foreign donors to approve aid funds for Haiti, the poorest
country in the Western hemisphere.
     But Powell, in Nassau to meet Caribbean ministers, told the Bahamian
radio station Love 97: "We are concerned about some of the actions of the
(Haitian) government. We do not believe enough has been done yet to move
the political process forward to assure ourselves that additional aid will
be used in the most effective way at this time."
     "We believe we have to hold President Aristide and the Haitian
government to fairly high standards of performance before we can simply
allow the flow of funds into the country," the secretary of state added.
     Nearly $500 million of international aid has been withheld from Haiti
because critics abroad and at home say the way the results of the 2000
elections were calculated gave Aristide's Lavalas party more Senate seats
than it was due.
     A senior U.S. official said the dispute was mainly about some $200
million in funds from the Inter-American Development Bank and that even if
the United States voted to release the money, the bank has problems with
Haitian arrears.
     "We now oppose any disbursement until the flawed election of 2000 is
corrected. We want them to sit down with opposition and negotiate seriously
and end the mob violence," he said
     If the World Bank was to vote on loans to Haiti, the United States
would abstain in the voting, another official added.
     In the meantime, the United States continues to contribute money to
nongovernmental organizations working in Haiti, but not to the Haitian
government, he added.
     The Bush administration has also cut by some $5 million the amount of
aid earmarked for Haiti in its budget request to Congress for fiscal year
2003, but U.S. officials said that aid from other funds could make up the
difference later.
     The Bahamas is especially keen to see development funds flow to Haiti
because of the problems it has with Haitian "boat people" who stray into
its waters, either attempting to reach the United States or the Bahamas as
a staging post.
     Powell said the Caribbean request would probably be discussed when he
meets CARICOM ministers later on Thursday.
     The annual meeting will also talk about trade, migration, the regional
AIDS epidemic and law enforcement.
     The Bush administration calls the Caribbean the "third border" of the
United States, after Canada and Mexico, and wants to stem the flow of drugs
and illegal immigrants from and through the islands. The region receives
small amounts of U.S. aid, bundled into a Third Border Initiative.
     Powell said a priority for the United States was ensuring Caribbean
cooperation in President Bush's "war on terrorism," especially by controls
on migration and bank accounts.
     But some of the Caribbean countries are heavily dependent on revenue
from their banking activities and are reluctant to discourage wealthy
private banking clients.