The French are visibly upset at the prospect of providing continuing refuge to former Haitian leader, Jean-Claude Duvalier. They would like to turn him over to the United States and wash their hands of the affair. Mr. Duvalier had planned to fly to New York over the weekend but was stopped at the last moment when the US declared him an ``undesirable visitor.''
The US action infuriated the French. Under US pressure, they let Duvalier come to France Feb. 7 with permission to stay eight days. French officials say he was admitted because France supported US efforts to promote democracy in Haiti. But Duvalier has become an embarrassment to the government of President Franois Mitterrand. Duvalier's presence is seen as a thorn in the side of the Socialist government less than a month before scheduled legislative elections. As longtime vocal opponents of right-wing dictatorships, the Socialists are anxious to make sure they are not seen as being particularly generous to Duvalier.
US officials understand these motives. They say they want to satisfy Mitterrand, who has proved a staunch ally.
But the US insists that Duvalier would be a ``security risk'' if he went to New York because of the large Haitian exile community there. They say they are working with the French to find Duvalier a suitable refuge elsewhere.
That task is proving difficult. Several countries have refused requests to give Duvalier asylum. He wants to stay in France and has applied for political asylum. Duvalier's request has increased French anger. Mitter-rand says the French Constitution only permits asylum to people ``persecuted because of their action in defense of freedom.'' Mitter-rand said that while in office Duvalier ``did not best symbolize human rights in the world.''
The result may be to sour French good feelings toward the recent evolution of US foreign policy. When Duvalier was deposed, the French applauded and hoped the US next would help push the Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos from office.
But now commentators here are echoing the message in a cartoon published Monday by the newspaper Le Quotidien. It shows an angry Mitterrand giving milk to an infant Duvalier while screaming into the telephone: ``All right Ronald, I'll take care of him a little bit longer. But don't send me Marcos!''