With armed rebels, who already control half of the impoverished former French colony, threatening to storm the capital Port-au-Prince, the French foreign ministry on Wednesday said there was growing acceptance that Aristide's days in power were numbered.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Aristide should "draw the consequences" of the current impasse as his regime "has been doing without constitutional legality."

"The question we have to ask is how soon does he go?" said one French official.

De Villepin said "supporters of violence and those who are still hoping for a peaceful settlement are engaged in a race against time. Haiti is threatened by chaos."

Paris formula

The French foreign minister said Paris has drafted a five-point plan to rescue Haiti from the current crisis. It includes a peacekeeping force, international humanitarian aid and international assistance to prepare for a presidential election.

Stressing that it was about time for Aristide to go, De Villepin said "everybody sees that a new page must be turned in the history of Haiti."


"The question we have to ask is how soon does he go"

French official

But with a political solution eluding the current impasse, Haiti faced uncertain times.

Pro-Aristide militias set up road blocks across the capital in anticipation of a rebel offensive.

They looted two car dealers, fired their guns in the air and searched cars at makeshift barricades of trucks, shipping containers, concrete slabs, refrigerators and other abandoned household appliances.

Police mounted their own patrols but generally left the militias alone. Tensions rose significantly as police admitted they could not cope with the deteriorating security.

The rebels now control at least half the country – including virtually all of its north and Haiti's second-largest city of Cap Haitien and clashes were reported in other provincial cities.