Senior officials of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government stepped up their criticism of Jimmy Carter on Friday as two important U.S. military-political figures arrived to join the former President's review of the Haitian political process.
"His arrogance is terrible, terrible," one Aristide aide said of Carter's call for the Haitian leader to remain neutral in parliamentary elections coming in June to allow his opponents a chance to win seats in the national legislature.
Carter made the demand in meetings Thursday, said Leslie Voltaire, a senior Aristide adviser, along with urging that several small, right-wing parties unify into larger groupings to strengthen their chances.
Earlier, Carter was reported to have urged that Aristide's political movement not run candidates in all the coming parliamentary races to allow the formation of a responsible opposition, a suggestion rejected by Gerard Pierre-Charles, leader of the presidential party.
While Voltaire quoted the Haitian president as saying he would "try to be a referee" in the election, aides said privately that Aristide was not about to make it easier for his opponents, particularly those who supported the 1991 military coup that sent him into a three-year exile.
Sharpening the Haitian apprehension that Carter seeks to weaken Aristide's political hold was the arrival Friday of retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).
The formal reason for the visit of the three, who brokered an accord last September for the departure of Haiti's brutal military regime, is to measure the accomplishments of the restored Aristide government and the progress of plans to hold elections.
In his self-assumed role as a promoter and monitor of international democratic elections, Carter has often sought to expand the political involvement of all sectors of the countries he has become involved in.
But one Haitian political expert said Aristide worries that Carter, Nunn and Powell, in particular, are here not only to weaken his hold on power but to chastise him for reducing the Haitian army to a tiny border patrol and ordering the retirement of senior military officers.
The alarmist Haitian perceptions were outlined by a senior Haitian government official who said Carter's demand that all elements of the country's political structure be included in the Parliament was "a naive democratic concept, a stupid kind of surrealism . . . with very sinister consequences."
"If Mr. Carter accepts the idea that a Nazi or the Ku Klux Klan should be represented in Congress, I'll accept that . . . politicians and parties who supported the (1991) coup and Aristide's exile" should be in Parliament, said the official.
Most political experts here, including American diplomats, believe that Aristide supporters will win overwhelmingly in the June legislative voting, taking as many as 80% of the seats.
Carter and his colleagues spent most of Friday meeting with officers of U.S. troops stationed here and taking helicopter tours of the countryside. They are to return to the United States today.
Meantime, in Washington, top State Department and Pentagon officials gave a generally upbeat assessment of the Haiti situation to members of the House International Relations Committee.
They said the U.S.-led multinational force will give way to a U.N. force on schedule March 31.
Times staff writer Norman Kempster in Washington contributed to this report.