WASHINGTON – President Bush said Wednesday that the United States is encouraging the international community to provide a strong "security presence" in Haiti (search) as America and its allies continue to try to achieve a political solution to the island nation's escalating violence.
Bush said the United States was discussing such a security presence at the moment, but he provided no details.
Bush said he has been closely consulting with Secretary of State Colin Powell in an effort to reach an accord between Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (search) and rebels who have seized control of large parts of Haiti.
"We will have a robust presence with an effective strategy," Bush told reporters following an Oval Office meeting with the president of Georgia.
He repeated the United States' often-stated policy in recent days that it will turn back any Haitian refugees trying to reach American shores.
Bush said Powell has been in touch with French, Canadian and Caribbean officials to try to get all parties to negotiate a settlement. "We are watching the situation very carefully," he said.
Aristide has accepted a settlement plan supported by the United States, other Western Hemisphere countries and the European Union. The opposition in Haiti, however, rejected the plan Tuesday. Hours later, a State Department official said the United States was continuing to work with the parties to win acceptance of the plan.
The official, asking not to be identified, said Powell talked with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin (search) and expressed support for a French effort to convene a meeting in Paris between Aristide and opposition leaders later in the week.
"We still hope to be able to achieve a political settlement," Bush said.
On Capitol Hill, the State Department's top official for Latin America, Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, briefed House members behind closed doors Wednesday. He said the United States is continuing to work closely with multinational bodies, such as the Organization of American States (search) and Caribbean Community, to find a peaceful, democratic solution for Haiti, said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.
If a political solution cannot be reached, "he said they'll consider many things, they'll consider a whole gamut of options, but they do not want to go in and simply prop up Aristide," Diaz-Balart said.
Meantime, Bush said he has directed the U.S. Coast Guard to turn back any refugee who attempts to reach American shores.
"We encourage, strongly encourage the Haitian people to stay home," Bush said.
He said the United States first will work on a political solution. "Incident to a political settlement, we will encourage the international community to provide a security presence, and that it also being discussed right now," he said.
Earlier, White House press secretary Scott McClellan emphasized that the United States was going to continue to focus on diplomacy, and that sending American forces there was "not something that has been in our plans."