France Calls for Immediate International Force

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin (search) on Wednesday issued a statement calling for an "immediate" establishment of a transitional government in Haiti (search) and an international civilian force to back it up.

De Villepin also indicated France no longer supports President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (search), an elected but highly unpopular president whose government is threatened by a rebellion.

"As for President Aristide, he bears heavy responsibility for the current situation," de Villepin said in a statement. "It is up to him to accept the consequences while respecting the rule of law. Everyone sees quite well that a new page must be opened in Haiti's history."

France also supports the urgent establishment of a transitional "government of national unity," headed by a designated prime minister, in accordance with a plan proposed by CARICOM, the 15-nation Caribbean Community, and the Organization of American States.

However, de Villepin said the plan should be broadened and the political process speeded up so that elections can be held in the coming months.

An international civilian force to back the transitional government is one element of France's proposal to broaden the plan. Paris also proposed international assistance to help Haiti organize a presidential election by establishing an election commission, lists of voter, and international observer missions to oversee the ballot.

The foreign minister said he spoke several times Tuesday and Wednesday with Secretary of State Colin Powell, other foreign diplomats and Haitian political officials. He said he was to meet Friday with representatives of the government and the opposition in Paris.