Haiti's toppled dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, arrived here early this morning on the first stage of his journey into exile from the country his family has ruled for nearly three decades.
The French Foreign Ministry said Duvalier, widely known as "Baby Doc," had only been granted permission to stay in France until another country is found willing to receive him permanently. Several countries in Europe and Africa already have announced that he is unwelcome.
French officials said Duvalier's flight yesterday to Grenoble, near here, here aboard a U.S. Air Force C141 transport plane was arranged hurriedly following intensive consultations between Washington and Paris. France is the second-largest foreign aid donor, after the United States, to Haiti, which was a French colony until 1804.
"Both we and the Americans arrived at the same conclusions. We felt that a peaceful transition to democracy in Haiti could only be ensured if Duvalier left the country. The problem has been to find a permanent place for him to go. Obviously we don't want him here," a French Foreign Ministry official said in Paris.
The French news agency Agence France-Presse quoted a government official as saying that Duvalier would not be allowed to stay in France for more than a week. Political sources said the Socialist government wanted to make sure that the Haitian dictator's presence did not become an element in the campaign now under way for parliamentary elections next month.
The U.S. Air Force plane touched down at 9:25 p.m. local time last night at Grenoble Airport amid tight security. Several dozen left-wing demonstrators outside the airport holding banners reading, "Duvalier assassin," were prevented from approaching the Haitian former "president-for-life," as were reporters and photographers who had gathered to see his arrival.
The Haitian party was driven away from the airport in a convoy of cars to this town on Lake Annecy, near the border with Switzerland in the Alps. They went to the 40-room Hotel de l'Abbaye which had been emptied of its other guests to make room for them.
French government sources said it was possible that Duvalier might be allowed to travel over the weekend to Monaco.
Duvalier, at the age of 34 one of the world's richest men, has several properties in France including an 18th century chateau in the Oise Valley near Paris, which he reportedly bought, sight unseen, for nearly $1 million two years ago.
French officials said that one reason they wanted to facilitate Duvalier's urgent departure from Haiti was the expectation of further violence at Carnival time next week, when tens of thousands of Haitian emigrants traditionally return to the country. The officials denied that France had been pressured by the Reagan administration into accepting Duvalier.
While Duvalier was en route to France, accompanied by an entourage of 24, Haitian sources in Paris speculated that either Morocco or Gabon might give him permanent political asylum. Officials of both countries quickly said, however, that they did not want him.
Earlier this week, Greece, Spain and Switzerland announced publicly that they had turned down Haitian requests to provide a place of exile for Duvalier. A French official said the decision to give the Duvalier family temporary exile was made after it became clear that no other country would accept him.
The French Foreign Ministry is now reported to be exploring the possibility of sending the Duvalier family to Cameroon or another former French colony in Africa.