Caribbean Nations to Refuse to Join Peacekeeping Force

Fourteen Caribbean nations rejected joining any peacekeeping force for Haiti Wednesday and called for a probe into ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's (search) charge that the United States forced him from office.

Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson (search) said the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was "extremely disappointed" at the involvement of "Western partners" in the hasty departure of Aristide, who flew Sunday to asylum in the Central African Republic aboard an American-supplied jet.

Speaking for the trading bloc, Patterson decried what he said was the U.N. Security Council's failure to respond to its appeals last week for an international peacekeeping force to restore order before Aristide fled the country.

"We believe that we put forward a very compelling case before the Security Council on Thursday of last week. The Security Council failed to respond then," said Patterson.

Aristide flew to exile as rebels closed in on the capital after an uprising that started Feb. 5. Once he reached Africa, Aristide claimed U.S. troops forced him to leave the country.

The Bush administration denies that it coerced Aristide to leave. But officials said that it became apparent a week ago that a negotiated settlement between Aristide and opposition leaders was not possible.

Afterward, Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) openly questioned Aristide's ability to be an effective leader, using language strongly suggesting that the Haitian leader should turn over power to his constitutional successor and depart the country.

But CARICOM said the circumstances were suspicious and called for an independent international inquiry into allegations that U.S. troops forced Aristide from office.

"The situation calls for an investigation of what transpired and we believe that it should be done under the auspices of some independent body such as the United Nations," Patterson said at the end of the 24-hour emergency session.

He said Aristide's claim that he was forced to step down constituted a "very dangerous precedent not only for Haiti, but also for democratically elected leaders and governments throughout the region.

"We could not fail to observe that what was impossible on Thursday could be accomplished in an emergency meeting on Sunday. We are disappointed in the extreme at the failure to act," Patterson said.

In the Sunday emergency meeting, the Security Council approved an international force for Haiti, with forces from the United States and France first to hit the ground. About 1,000 U.S. Marines were in Haiti by Wednesday night.

And despite the Caribbean boycott, Chile had already promised to send 120 special forces to Haiti, the first of about 300. France said it would have some 420 soldiers and police in place by the end of the week.