World – Reuters


Caribbean Leaders to Meet with Haitian Opposition  

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (Reuters) – Leaders from several Caribbean

nations will meet with Haitian opposition leaders next week to try to

resolve Haiti‘s increasingly tense political stalemate, Trinidad‘s

foreign minister said on Thursday.

“We are hoping that we will be able to persuade the opposition to

shift from their very hard-line stance, namely that President

Jean-Bertrand Aristide must go before anything moves forward again in

Haiti,” Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Minister Knowlson Gift said.

He said Haiti‘s opposition leaders had agreed to meet in Nassau on

Wednesday with the prime ministers of the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia

and Trinidad and Tobago. The meeting was organized by the Caribbean

Community regional bloc, which recently sent a fact-finding mission

to Haiti.

Several people have been killed in recent months when increasingly

large anti-government marches were attacked by pro-Aristide gunmen.

The government blamed the opposition for the bloodshed while

demonstrators accused Aristide of corruption and human rights

violations and have called for his departure.

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, was hugely popular when he

became Haiti‘s first democratically elected leader in 1991. He was

deposed soon afterward but restored to power by a U.S.-led invasion

after three years in exile.

He was re-elected in 2000 but his popularity has waned because of

allegations his party committed fraud in that ballot, and because of

accusations of corruption and violence.



The unresolved dispute over the 2000 vote has prevented a new ballot

from being held. The terms of most Haitian legislators expired on

Monday, immobilizing parliament.

On Wednesday, Aristide called for new parliamentary elections within

six months, but opposition leaders said there were inadequate

safeguards to assure free and fair ballot.

Aristide met with CARICOM officials and with President Bush (news –

web sites) and Secretary of State Colin Powell (news – web sites)

during last week’s Summit of the Americas in Mexico. Gift said the

group urged Aristide to be more accommodating “in listening to the

other side.”

Gift said the other leaders told Aristide, “You’ve got to do

something, this is about your last chance. You cannot let this

opportunity slip by.”




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