Originally: Dominican president will not attend Haiti?s bicentennial

Santo Domingo, Dec 30 (EFE).- Dominican President Hipolito Mejia will not travel to Haiti on Jan. 1, 2004, to take part in ceremonies marking the bicentennial of the nation?s independence, officials told EFE on Tuesday.

The Dominican government appointed a delegation headed by Foreign Minister Francisco Guerrero and historian and Environment Minister Frank Moya Pons to represent the country in the celebrations, a presidential spokesperson said.

Mejia told reporters Monday he would not travel to Haiti on Thursday “as a precaution.”

According to the president, “there are no serious problems in Haiti, but given Dominican history and the (country?s) relationship with Haiti … I prefer to be cautious and stay put.”

During the festivities, the Haitian opposition plans to hold anti-government marches in Port-au-Prince and other cities in an effort to pressure President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to step down.

The Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haiti in 1844, after being occupied for 22 years.

Every year, thousands of Haitians cross the border into the Dominican Republic, trying to escape their country?s grinding poverty.