His cabinet minister and close adviser Leslie Voltaire told journalists on Sunday that the country's first freely elected president in 200 years of independence would seek asylum in either Morocco, Taiwan or Panama.

His decision to flee the country comes only hours after repeatedly rejecting mounting international pressure to step down.

The growing armed insurgency had always looked likely to capture the capital within days.

US pressure

But the US helped end his political career by placing the blame for violence and bloodshed in the country squarely on Aristide.

In its most direct criticism on Sunday, the White House urged him to consider stepping down.

"We condemn the violence in Haiti. Many are engaged in it. All should end their senseless looting and killing. In the last few days, gangs armed and directed by President Aristide have looted and attacked people and property in Port-au-Prince.

"Aristide must instruct his supporters to end this violence. Rebel forces approaching Port-au-Prince must cease their acts of violence to allow for a political solution," the White House statement said.