Aristide accuses U.S. of forcing him out

U.S. officials are denying ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's claim that Washington forced him from office.

Ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is accusing the United States of forcing him to leave office in a coup d'état.

"I was told that to avoid bloodshed I'd better leave. No one should force an elected president to move," Aristide said in an interview on Monday with CNN from the Central African Republic, where he is in exile.

Asked about earlier reports that had him claiming to have been kidnapped, Aristide said: "As I said, I called this coup d'état in a modern way, to have modern kidnapping.

"They were not Haitian forces. They were [unintelligible sound] and Americans and Haitians together, acting to surround the airport, my house, the palace," he said.

He said he was taken by plane and found out he was headed for the Central African Republic just 20 minutes before the flight landed.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the allegations "baseless and absurd," saying Aristide asked for American assistance to leave Haiti.

"He came back to us and said it was his decision, based on what the security people were also telling him about the deteriorating situation, that he should leave," said Powell.

Chief presidential spokesperson Scott McClellan said the U.S. arranged for a plane to fly to Haiti to pick up Aristide and that he left on his own free will.

Unnamed U.S. officials did acknowledge to The Associated Press that Aristide was told American troops would not protect him from the rebels if he remained in Haiti.

Aristide's allegations came after rebel forces rolled into Port-au-Prince on Monday along with U.S., French and Canadian troops.

The multinational force began efforts to try to restore order in the Haitian capital. Looting and violence subsided as the soldiers spread out from the airport to protect key sites.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe later met with members of the political coalition who had opposed Aristide.

Canada has about 50 soldiers in Port-au-Prince already, and Ottawa is deciding how many more to send.

Powell said the United States will have a limited military presence, with 400 marines expected by Monday afternoon.

But the U.S. Secretary of State said the American forces "will have a lead role" initially in restoring order to Haiti in the wake of the three-week old rebellion that killed at least 80 people.