Secretary of State Madeleine Albright urged Haiti's leaders on Saturday to stop political infighting that has paralyzed the Caribbean nation for nearly a year and cut off desperately needed foreign aid.
Without a political breakthrough, there is no possibility of significant outside help - and little the United States can do to ease Haiti's deep-rooted impoverishment, Albright acknowledged after her second attempt since October to mediate an end to the crisis."Frankly, we have been disappointed that Haitian political leaders have taken so long to resolve their differences," she said. "The Haitian people deserve a democratic form of government, and they deserve the ability to have the fruits that the international community is trying to give them."
Albright visited President Rene Preval, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and political party leaders during her one-day stop before leaving for a meeting with Caribbean foreign ministers in Trinidad.
She also boarded a U.S. Coast Guard cutter used to intercept drug smugglers off southern Haiti.
Many Haitians, however, said Saturday's visit was unlikely to break the impasse.
"It's not an official visit," Foreign Minister Fritz Longchamps said earlier in the week, trying to play down its significance. "The resolution of the Haitian crisis depends on many Haitians actors, not on a single person, let alone on the United States."
In a foreign policy success for the Clinton administration, U.S. troops ousted a bloody Haitian military regime in 1994 and restored the deposed Aristide to power. But infighting among Aristide's heirs has left Haiti without a prime minister since June.
In June, Premier Rosny Smarth resigned to protest alleged vote fraud in April 1997 elections by backers of Aristide.