TWO weeks of talks to break Haiti's political deadlock ended in a draw Saturday, as parliamentary allies of ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide failed to win the Army's support for a plan to reinstate the exiled president.
The virulently anti-Aristide provisional government went into the three-way talks hoping to overcome Parliament's tacit refusal to legislate new presidential elections.
Now Haitians are wondering whether the messy outcome of the meetings, which ended Saturday, is a first step toward compromise or the latest time-wasting diversion as an Organization of American States (OAS) embargo slowly throttles the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The United States, Haiti's main trade partner, began implementing the embargo a month after the Army overthrew the left-leaning reformist in a bloody military coup Sept. 30.
The three-way talks also cranked up tension between the forceful US ambassador, Alvin Adams, and Provisional Prime Minister Jean-Jacques Honorat. Two days before the talks ended, Ambassador Adams told journalists any agreement would be "illusory" if it took no account of the OAS-backed proposal for the freely elected president's reinstatement, negotiated by President Aristide and a parliamentary delegation Feb. 23 in Washington.
The next day, the prime minister warned in a communique that, if Adams did not like the talks, "he is always free to leave national territory as soon as possible."
Saturday's agreement calls for the formation of a new government of national consensus to negotiate the lifting of the international embargo. But the pro-Aristide National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD), Parliament's largest bloc, vowed to block ratification of the agreement.
Most Haitians assume that the Army, despite its professed neutrality, backed the ploys used by the provisional government to block parliamentary ratification of the OAS accord: alleged intimidation and bribery of legislators as well as a Supreme Court ruling declaring it unconstitutional.