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Haitian leader agrees to meet with general who ousted him

Exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide agreed Tuesday to hold talks on restoring democracy with the military chief who ousted him, a Security Council ambassador said.

Venezuelan Ambassador Diego Arria said that U.N. envoy Dante Caputo, who has been trying to mediate talks to restore civilian rule to Haiti, is making final arrangements for a weekend meeting on the Caribbean islands of Aruba or Bonaire.

On Monday, the Haitian military commander, Gen. Raoul Cedras, agreed to meet with Aristide, whom he overthrew in 1991. Aristide, Haiti's first freely elected president, had been in office for seven months.

Despite the development _ a potentially major advance in ending Haiti's crisis _ the U.N.'s oil and arms embargo against Haiti was to take effect as scheduled at 12:01 a.m. EDT today, Arria said.

The Security Council approved the embargo last Wednesday, saying it would take effect in a week if military rulers did not make progress toward restoring democracy.

The sanctions include a worldwide oil embargo, a freeze of assets of top Haitian business executives and officials, and a prohibition on arms sales to the country.

U.N. spokesman Joe Sills said "an agreement to hold talks would not stop the sanctions" from going into effect.

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher also said that such talks would not constitute a basis for delaying the embargo.

"We see no basis for delaying the sanctions," Christopher said in Washington, before Aristide accepted Cedras' offer.

As the sanctions neared passage last week, the measures appeared substantially weakened by a last-minute motion for the removal of language authorizing the enforcement of the embargo by U.S. and other ships off Haiti acting under U.N. authority.

Diplomats said that in recent days, however, Haitian military leaders had come to understand that the United States would enforce the sanctions unilaterally, if necessary.

"If the (Haitian leadership) did find some company or country that would be willing to defy the sanctions _ a very big if _ we would deal with such a shipment the way we deal with any other contraband we encounter on the seas," a U.S. diplomat said. "Oil tankers are usually pretty easy to see."