updated 2/26/2004 1:56:39 PM ET 2004-02-26T18:56:39

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry asked President Bush on Thursday to name Sen. Bob Graham of Florida as a special envoy to Haiti to help find a political solution to the violence there.

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Graham, who plans to endorse Kerry for president in the next week, has been critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the crisis in Haiti, where opposition forces are threatening to overtake the capital and oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

“He knows the situation in Haiti extremely well and knows the cost that widespread violence will cause not only in Haiti, but on our shores,” Kerry said of his Senate colleague, who abandoned his own Democratic presidential bid last October and has since expressed interest in the No. 2 spot on the ticket.

Graham, 67, called this week for a police force — either U.S. or multinational — to restore order in the Caribbean country. His spokesman, Paul Anderson, said the senator would be willing to serve as an envoy if Bush asks him.

Bush said the United States is encouraging the international community to provide a security presence in Haiti. He also said the U.S. Coast Guard would turn back Haitian refugees reaching American shores.

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