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U.S. Officials Debate Over Haitian Leader

The United States helped Jean-Bertrand Aristide claim his place as president of Haiti a decade ago. Now, American officials, disillusioned with his rule, are debating internally whether they should help show Aristide the door. Publicly, the United States resists the notion of forcibly removing Aristide. Privately, the Bush administration is exploring options for helping foster a peaceful switch of leaders in Haiti without undercutting democratic rule. Aristide upped the ante Wednesday by turning aside one U.S. suggestion: early elections that could appease his political opponents. He wants to serve until his five-year term expires in February 2006. The United States has not clearly said it will refuse to recognize a successor to Aristide who takes over through coup or ouster, experts point out. Days ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell said a change in leadership in Haiti is not an option. But he also said the United States is not inclined to intervene to help Aristide maintain a grip on power. Full Story

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