WASHINGTON — AFTER an appeal by black congressmen, religious leaders, and some Hollywood stars to stiffen an embargo against Haiti, Clinton administration officials say they may ask the United Nations for tougher sanctions.
But officials said that before they seek to widen the embargo, exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide must agree to a plan that would restore him as leader after forming a government that would also include some supporters of the Haitian military.
And officials reject calls by the 40-member Congressional Black Caucus for changes in the treatment of Haitian boat people. Presently, fleeing Haitians are intercepted at sea by United States warships and returned to Haiti.
Vice President Al Gore Jr. met Friday with Mr. Aristide in what one US official called ``an attempt to reach out - the tone of our relationship with him has been negative in recent weeks.''
The official said that basic US policy remains largely unchanged in its insistence that Aristide agree to a plan by a broad group of Haitian parliament members and others - including conservative opponents of Aristide - calling for military leaders to step down, Aristide to name a new prime minister, and the passage of an amnesty law for the military coup participants.
The exiled president had rejected the plan because it would allow the military to have a say in the new government and enjoy protection of an amnesty before stepping aside; and it did not specify when Aristide would return to power.
``The State Department says to create a center, but 67 percent of Haitians voted for Aristide,'' said Aristide spokesman Jean-Claude Martineau last week. ``Aristide is the center.''
``We don't think foreign intervention is necessary,'' he added.``The way to advance is to impose a total embargo to force the military to go.''
The US official said that the US is now exploring Aristide's complaints and considering a plan for ``simultaneity'' in which Army chief Raoul Cedras would quit at the same time as an amnesty.
General Cedras refused to quit on Dec. 15 despite having agreed to do so in the Governors Island Accord with Aristide last July. Asked if there is any indication Cedras would step aside soon, the official said it ``remains a possibility.''
The US opposes suggestions by Peter Hakim, president of Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank, that either military intervention or abandoning the present embargo - which mainly hurts the poor - are the only ways to break the deadlock over Haiti.
``Where we are is where we've been - we want to force the [military] leadership to give up power and support constitutional authority to bring about democratic government and the return of Aristide,'' the official said.
``Military intervention will not bring democracy. But those who say they want more and more sanctions - including Aristide - want military intervention. They want us to go in and clean it out.
``It would be years before you got out. There would be household problems. Mob control. We would be criticized by those same people who want us to go in.''
He also rejected lifting the naval picket line of US and other warships enforcing the UN-imposed sanctions barring all goods other than food and medicine. The embargo is reported to be widely flaunted by smugglers along the border of the Dominican Republic, whose president has spoken out against the embargo.
More than two years have passed since the army ousted Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected leader, and then launched a wave of repression, murdered up to 3,000, restored repressive section chiefs as rural military governors, and drove 40,000 boat people to sea.