Joe Raedle  /  Getty Images
U.S. Marines watch a pro-Aristide protest from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince on Saturday. Following President Aristide's resignation, President Bush ordered a separate deployment of Marines to lead an international stability force there.
msnbc.com news services
updated 2/29/2004 10:05:30 PM ET 2004-03-01T03:05:30

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Sunday night to authorize sending an international military force to Haiti for three months to restore order.

The decision came hours after U.S. President Bush ordered the deployment of U.S. Marines to Haiti to serve as the “leading element” of an international stability force.

“I have ordered the deployment of Marines as the leading element of an interim international force to help bring order and stability to Haiti,” Bush told reporters at the White House.

Security Council members held an emergency session in the evening to debate whether to authorize sending the military force, even as the United States and France prepared to move in the first troops.

'Threat to international peace'
The armed rebellion that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Sunday “constitutes a threat to international peace and security and to stability in the Caribbean, especially through the potential outflow of people to other states in the subregion,” the council resolution states.

The council received a letter from Haiti’s Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre, who replaced Aristide after he fled the country, requesting an international force, said China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, the current council president.

The United States and France, which requested the meeting, refused on Thursday to support the immediate deployment of a multinational force, insisting that there had to be a political settlement in Haiti first. With Aristide’s departure, the two countries — who were at odds during the Iraq war — jointly called for an emergency council meeting to get military troops into Haiti as quickly as possible.

'Law and order'
“We need to get some action on the ground to restore law and order,” Wang said. “So I sense that other council members will be flexible with this.”

Before the council session, a loose group of nations known as the Friends of Haiti — the United States, France, Canada, Brazil, Chile and representatives of the 15-member Caribbean Community — met informally to discuss the crisis.

As he headed into the meeting, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said “the Friends of Haiti have worked on a draft that would authorize a multinational interim force and we’re hoping, if possible, to pass the resolution this evening.”

President Bush said earlier Sunday the United States would lead an international peacekeeping force to help restore order in Haiti. France, which has 3,000 troops in the region, is expected to participate in the force along with Canada and some Caribbean nations.

Asked whether the U.S. Marines would wait for adoption of a resolution before hitting the ground in Haiti, Negroponte said, “The president of Haiti has already asked for external intervention and for assistance, so I don’t think that there’s any obstacle to the Marines going in.”

“But it would be helpful to have the resolution, as far as that is concerned. And of course it’s helpful for other countries who may be considering contributions to this multinational force,” he said.

It expresses “utmost concern at the continuing violence” and demands that both rebels and Aristide supporters end their attacks and respect human rights and international law. It also demands that all sides accept the constitutional succession of Alexandre, who declared he was taking over the Haitian presidency as called for by the constitution three hours after Aristide’s departure.

Marines bound for Haiti
Earlier Sunday, the U.S. State Department announced that the Marines were being sent to help keep order in the chaotic Caribbean nation, and said other countries also will join an international force.

“The United States will deploy a contingent of U.S. Marines as the initial contingent of a multilateral interim force,” the State Department said in a statement posted on its Web site.

“We have been informed that several other countries are prepared to move quickly to join this mission,” it said, with no more specifics.

Aristide resigned as Haiti’s president and left the country.

A defense official said a contingent of three U.S. Navy ships was on standby in Norfolk, Va., awaiting a possible order to head to the waters off Haiti with a group of Marines. Other officials said it was unclear whether the ships would be needed.

The intention was to await an official request by a Haitian government for American military assistance.

“President Aristide’s decision is in the best interest of the Haitian people,” a senior administration official said after Aristide left Haiti.

In Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, the U.S. ambassador said U.S. and international troops would move in quickly.

From Washington, a U.S. official said an international security force with American participation would get ready should authorization come from Haitian authorities and the U.N. Security Council.

With Aristide’s departure, the head of Haiti’s supreme court said he was taking charge. One U.S. concern, said the official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, was that the rebels who forced Aristide to flee might demand a role in the new government. The United States considers many members of these groups to be committed to violence and undeserving of any political role.

The centerpiece of U.S. military participation may be elements of a Marine infantry battalion on short-notice alert at Camp Lejeune, N.C. That force would be supplemented by Marine aircraft, logistics and other transportation elements.

Aristide’s ouster angered some members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Rep. Charles Rangel, who was deeply involved in restoring Aristide’s elected government to power in 1994, said the United States must shoulder much of the blame for Aristide’s fall and the chaos that brought it on.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but we are just as much as part of this coup d’etat as the rebels, looters or anyone else,” Rangel, D-N.Y., said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said that in a country “where a true democracy has recently emerged after decades of autocratic rule,” the elected president “has been pushed out by an administration anxious to get rid of him.”

Late Saturday, the White House had increased pressure on Aristide, whose rule has been marked by violence, corruption and poverty.

“This long-simmering crisis is largely of Mr. Aristide’s making,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in Saturday’s statement. McClellan said Aristide’s actions “have called into question his fitness to continue to govern.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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