France could contribute to Haiti peace force.

Visiting French President Jacques Chirac said on Tuesday that he did not rule out France contributing to a peace force in Haiti to quell civil unrest in the Caribbean country. Chirac, on a two-day visit to Hungary, also called for negotiations to end the insurrection that erupted in Haiti in early February and has so far left at least 70 people dead and several hundreds wounded.

"France does not rule out contributing to a civilian peacekeeping force, which would be made up for the most part from nationals from countries from the region," he told a press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy. He said Paris was looking into a number of ideas, which have been put forward to resolve the crisis, notably by Caricom, the 15-nation Caribbean community.

He noted that Caricom had put forward a settlement plan which was accepted by embattled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom he said appears to face "mounting criticism". "We hope that this plan will be implemented to pave the way for a political dialogue leading to a peaceful and lasting settlement of the crisis. Only a negotiation process offers a way out of the crisis," Chirac said.

The agreement, to which Aristide agreed on Saturday, calls for him to cede significant powers to a new government and prime minister acceptable to the opposition, but allows him to remain in office until the end of his term in 2006. Haiti, Chirac added, "has for a long time been governed in a disastrous manner."

[Source: Jang, Pakistan, 24Feb04]

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