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U.N. to send peacekeepers to Haiti

Aristide resigns and departs, but whereabouts unclear

Boniface Alexandre, left, was installed as Haiti's president. He appears at a news conference Sunday with Prime Miniister Yvon Neptune.
Boniface Alexandre, left, was installed as Haiti's president. He appears at a news conference Sunday with Prime Miniister Yvon Neptune.

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Sunday night to send a multinational peacekeeping force to Haiti for up to three months.

The vote in New York came at the end of a day that began with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's resignation and departure.

Shortly before the U.N. vote, a small group of U.S. Marines landed at the airport in Port-au-Prince, hours after Aristide's resignation broke a political impasse that brought a bloody rebel insurgency to the capital.

With armed gangs continuing to roam the streets of Port-au-Prince, President Bush ordered the Marines to the country as part of a multinational interim force. A small contingent of Canadian troops is already in the city.

"I urge the people of Haiti to reject violence and give this break from the past a chance to work and the United States is prepared to help," Bush said.

The initial contingent of about 100 Marines is expected to secure key facilities to allow for the arrival of the international force.

Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, left the country early Sunday. Haiti's Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre was installed as the nation's president in a transitional government, as mandated by Haiti's constitution.

Aristide's destination was not yet known. Earlier, officials in the Dominican Republic said they expected his arrival there. But Dominican officials in Washington said Aristide stopped in Antigua before heading on for an unrevealed final destination.

The Dominican officials in Washington said that some of Aristide's Cabinet ministers went to the Dominican Republic.

Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham told CNN that Aristide was headed to an African country. But officials in Morocco and South Africa said that was not true. According to the state-run media in Morocco, officials there said they would reject such a request.

Traveling to Port-au-Prince, rebel leader Guy Philippe told CNN his forces would welcome the Marines and other international forces.

"We need them. I think the worst is over now," he said. "And we are waiting for the international force. They will have our full cooperation."

Philippe said his rebels "don't intend to fight anymore."

"The only problem was with Aristide," he said. "We don't have any problem with Aristide's followers."

Philippe said that interim President Alexandre had his "unconditional support."

Graham said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told him troops would land in Haiti Sunday, but U.S. officials said only that they could arrive there as early as late Sunday.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement that the United States is seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing "international support for a peaceful and constitutional transition in Haiti."

The U.N. Security Council started meeting at 6 p.m. Sunday to discuss Haiti. Council President Wang Guangya of China said he believed the council would approve the resolution to authorize a multinational force for Haiti Sunday night, considering the crisis.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was "ready to play its part in the mobilization of the regional and international community."

"Emergency humanitarian aid must be put in place to provide help to the Haitian population," the statement said. The ministry also called for fighting the Caribbean nation to "stop at once."

About 130 French troops will arrive Monday "to ensure the security of French citizens" in the country, said a spokesman for President Jacques Chirac.

News of Aristide's resignation surfaced early Sunday, but no official statement was issued until the former Roman Catholic priest was long gone.

Aristide, in a statement read on national television by Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, said he was resigning "to prevent bloodshed."

Aristide asked for and received U.S. help leaving Haiti, said Boucher, who did not provide specifics.

Boucher said Alexandre would remain in place until new elections can be held, and Neptune will remain prime minister until a replacement is appointed "in the next days."

Bush administration officials said that the new government would likely be restructured to give more power to the prime minister and less to the president.

People celebrate news of Aristide's departure Sunday in Cap Hatien.
People celebrate news of Aristide's departure Sunday in Cap Hatien.

Political opposition leaders earlier had rejected the same proposal as long as it included Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president since it declared independence from France in 1804.

Aristide's term in office was not scheduled to end until 2006.

His departure came as armed rebels -- who already controlled much of the Haiti's north and not associated with the political opposition -- closed in on Aristide's embattled government, saying they had moved to within 30 miles of the capital.

After Neptune's announcement of Aristide's resignation, gunfire could be heard in the streets of Port-au-Prince, although it was unclear whether it was celebratory.

Ambulance sirens echoed across the city, and black smoke from burning barricades rose into the air.

Aristide had spent last week refusing to step down, instead pleading for international help to put down the insurrection.

The United States, France and the Caribbean nations had backed a proposal for a power-sharing, interim government, but the opposition said it feared Aristide would not hold up his end of the deal and refused to sign on.

After pro-Aristide gangs sent Port-au-Prince into a spiral of violence at the end of the week, the White House issued a strongly worded statement Saturday that blamed the violence on Aristide.

"This long-simmering crisis is largely of Mr. Aristide's making," the statement said. "His failure to adhere to democratic principles has contributed to the deep polarization and violent unrest that we are witnessing in Haiti today. His own actions have called into question his fitness to continue to govern Haiti. We urge him to examine his position carefully, to accept responsibility, and to act in the best interests of the people of Haiti."

State Department officials told CNN that Powell, Graham, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, Caribbean leaders, U.N. leaders and Haitian Roman Catholic bishops worked overnight to solve the crisis.

In 1990, Aristide was elected president. He was overthrown in a 1991 coup, restored to power after intense pressure by U.S. officials in 1994 and won a new term in 2000 -- in elections his political opponents claim were fraudulent.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, Elise Labott, Barbara Starr, Lucia Newman, Richard Roth and Ingrid Arnesen contributed to this report.

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