HAITI'S military leaders appear determined to discover if the Clinton administration will in the end actually resort to force to restore ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The installation of an Army-backed president this week, Supreme Court judge Emile Jonassaint, seemed a calculated slap at the United States and other nations that approved the near-total United Nations economic embargo on Haiti set to begin May 23. Since its 1991 coup, the Haitian junta had refrained from naming a replacement for Aristide, hoping the exiled leader's return might still be negotiated.
But Jonassaint's inauguration represents clear defiance, and US officials reacted accordingly. US Ambassador to Haiti William Swing called the act ``utterly without foundation in Haitian law,'' and said it will ``not be recognized by the United States or the international community.''
At the same time US officials continued to choose their words carefully when discussing the prospects for military action. While some members of Congress, particularly liberals and members from Florida, are urging an all-out invasion, a wide array of US political figures have explictly warned that military action in Haiti would be a bad idea.
The White House strongly denied a Los Angeles Times report that 600 heavily armed troops were to be dispatched to dislodge Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and other Haitian coup leaders. But officials reiterated that force had not been ruled out - and Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the idea of sending US troops to help ``train and professionalize'' the Haitian military has been recently revived.
``If the sanctions work, then there will still be a need for some kind of a force to deal with security issues in Haiti and to deal with trying to reconstitute it,'' added US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright.