PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI Violence subsides in capital city
The United States is considering sending Marines to waters off Haiti.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Pro-government mobs who were looting and shooting up the Haitian capital withdrew from the streets Saturday, obeying a plea from President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A rebel leader said he would honor a U.S. appeal not to attack.
Though violence subsided, doctors said the morgue at Port-au-Prince's only hospital was full, and that 25-30 bodies were brought in since Friday -- raising the death toll to more than 100 in Haiti's 4-week-long rebellion.
The United States urged both sides in the conflict to end the violence that broke out Feb. 5.
Rebel leader Guy Philippe, speaking to The Associated Press from a key northern city in his control, said his fighters would not attack the capital "for a day or two."
France, Brazil, Canada and the United States sent military planes with soldiers Saturday to evacuate citizens.
At the airport, about 200 people tried to get on a nine-seat plane flying to the Dominican Republic.
Most airlines have canceled flights to Haiti, where there are an estimated 20,000 foreigners.
Refusing to step down
Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, held fast in his refusal to leave office until his term expires in February 2006 -- defying calls from the United States and France to step down.
"Will I resign? No, I will not resign," he said. "I will fulfill my turn and I will not allow criminals and terrorists to take over."
Aristide went on television Friday night to call for calm and an end to the violence, saying "looting is bad."
Earlier Saturday there was looting at the capital's seaport, with people hacking into about 500 containers of U.S. aid and carrying away sacks of lentils.
Food prices have multiplied in the capital since the popular uprising began in the northern city of Gonaives, and rebels swiftly cut off supplies from key agricultural Artibonite district.
The rebels have gathered hundreds of volunteers as they have chased Haiti's outgunned police force from a score of towns and overrun more than half of the country. Many of those killed in recent weeks were police officers.
As he spoke, a truckload of Aristide militants plowed through the hospital parking lot to the entrance, where they revved the engine threateningly and rocked the vehicle back and forth before driving away.
Philippe said that while his forces will continue to converge near the capital, he will hold off attacking in response to the U.S. appeals, which he said he read on the Internet.
The American appeal for an end to violence was issued Friday night by U.S. Ambassador James Foley in a statement to reporters. There was no direct contact between U.S. officials and rebels, both sides made clear.
Philippe spoke to AP from his base in Cap-Haitien, a key northern port and Haiti's second-largest city, which the rebels captured last Sunday. Cap-Haitien is 90 miles north of the capital, but rebel fighters were seen by an Associated Press reporter Friday within 25 miles of Port-au-Prince.
Some 2,200 U.S. Marines were put on alert as Pentagon officials weighed the possibility of sending troops to waters off Haiti to guard against any flood of refugees and to protect the estimated 20,000 Americans in the Caribbean country.
In its statement, the U.S. Embassy, which has rebuffed Aristide's pleas to send a small peacekeeping force, urged Haiti's leader to tell his followers to stop "spreading terror and attacking civilians and the general population ... in the name of Jean-Bertrand Aristide."
Back to work
Aristide, speaking on television, urged his followers to let people go about their duties in the day, but added, "We can put up barricades at night to ensure they [rebels] don't attack us."
He also urged the government's 46,000 employees to go back to work Monday and called for schools to reopen.
Radio Vision 2000 suspended broadcasts after assailants shot at the building early Saturday morning -- apparently because of reports critical of Aristide.
Aristide loyalists robbed drivers for the U.S. and French embassies early Saturday, and beat up the French Embassy driver, witnesses said.
Such attacks have increased since U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin suggested Aristide cede power for the good of his Caribbean nation of 8 million people.
A former priest, Aristide was wildly popular but has lost support after flawed legislative elections in 2000. International donors froze aid, and as poverty deepened, opposition grew. Aristide denies charges that he uses police and armed militants to crush opposition.
The international community -- led by the United States, France and Canada -- has insisted that Haiti's government and opposition reach a political settlement before foreign forces intervene.