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CNN BREAKING NEWS

White House Confirms Aristide Left Haiti

Aired February 29, 2004 - 07:13   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We do want to take a moment now to update you on the story that we've been telling you about since the beginning of this broadcast, and that takes us to Haiti, where we had been learning this morning of the possibility of the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. We had learned after that, not true, that it could have been a rumor. We are now getting new confirmation, I repeat, new confirmation coming to us from the White House on this matter. I want to go straight to Washington, where Suzanne Malveaux is standing by to fill us in on the details. Suzanne, what can you tell us at this point?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Heidi. I just spoke with a senior administration official who did in fact confirm that Aristide has left Haiti. He couldn't give us many other details beyond that, but he said that we can expect more information perhaps within the hour, so about just how this was arranged, but he said of course that involved a great deal of work from the U.S. government.

As you know, it was just yesterday that we learned that Secretary Powell had spoken both with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, to strategize how to bring this to an end. And essentially, the White House issued a very strongly worded statement yesterday, saying that they believed that Aristide was responsible, that this -- that this crisis was largely of his own making, and several senior administration officials who we spoke with yesterday said that through the State Department, there were definitely back channels privately, that they were getting the message to Aristide that he needed to leave the country, that he needed to step down for a peaceful resolution, and it seems as if that's indeed what has happened.

COLLINS: Suzanne, let me ask you, and you may not have the information on this, but it comes to mind, just a couple of days ago, we were talking about three ships, U.S. Marines, 2,200 or so of them, that were going to be sent in that direction, just poised, if you will, off the coast to be prepared should anything happen. Do you have any idea what the plans will be for those troops, if you will, now? Will they stay in place or what is the word at this point?

MALVEAUX: Well, in terms of those three ships, that was a contingency plan, and it was really based on a worst case scenario, that if they needed additional Marines to come in and perhaps actually aid Aristide in leaving the country, or in restoring some sort of order at the U.S. embassy, that they would be on the ready, that they would be off the coast of Haiti, they would be available. That is something that the president had not yet decided on. The last word, in speaking with officials that we understand, it may not even be necessary at this point, but what the president has talked about over the last week or so is this power-sharing arrangement, in which Aristide and his opponents would be able to share power. He would be able to serve out his term, and there would be a multi- national force that would follow up.

Obviously, this was not the preferable solution, because at the same time, it was really a two-pronged approach. The administration was getting closer to calling for Aristide to leave the country and to step down. It became very clear that that power-sharing deal just was not going to work.

COLLINS: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so very much for updating us on that. We, of course, are going to keep our eye on this situation, and continue to bring you, the viewer, more details as soon as we get them. Suzanne, thanks again.

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