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France tells citizens ‘quit Haiti before massacre’

PARIS, Feb 23 (AFP) – Haiti is heading towards a “massacre,” French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Monday as he urged French citizens to leave the restive Caribbean state.

“What we are seeing is a massacre developing. Already there are more than 70 dead,” he told commercial RMC radio in Paris.

“We are convinced that all those who do not have call to be on the scene should not stay there,” he said.

The minister repeated a suggestion made last week that an international peacekeeping force be sent to the Caribbean country, which has been torn by civil conflict for three weeks and is now divided between supporters and opponents of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

“We are ready to lend our aid once the UN has given its mandate …. (But) we are not yet at that stage. It is important that each side make a gesture.

We cannot take steps in a country in crisis if the players on the ground refuse all dialogue,” he said.

A team of international mediators is in Haiti trying to arrange a ceasefire with the rebel forces, who on Sunday took control of the second city Cap-Haitien.

Witnesses reported chaos throughout the northern city, where up to 200 well-armed rebels were in control after overcoming slight resistance from police and armed Aristide militants in gun battles that killed at least three people and burning down the local police station.

The leader of the insurgency, Guy Philippe, said his forces would attack the capital Port-au-Prince within three days and control the entire country in two weeks unless Aristide steps down.

The United States on Saturday ordered most of its diplomats in Haiti to leave, and there were signs other countries might follow suit.


                                                              Subject: France news