CAP HAITIEN, March 31 (AP) – The leader of rebels who helped oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide held talks with police Wednesday over how the commandos could be integrated into Haiti’s hapless police force.
French peacekeeping troops observed the closed-door talks between rebel leader Guy Philippe and Renan Etienne, the new police chief for northern Haiti, who said afterward that he was willing to accept some rebels into his force but not without a screening process.
Downstairs in a hotel lobby, a handful of fatigue-clad rebels sat drinking beer and fingering assault rifles, keeping apart from a dozen stone-faced police who recently returned to the force.
The talks were aimed at finding a place for rebels until the new interim government determines whether to restore the army that Aristide disbanded years after being overthrown in a 1991 army coup, said Philippe, who led rebels to take this northern city on Feb. 22.
”We gave the list of [1,500] soldiers who have no criminal or police records online and weren’t involved in any wrongdoing to the new interior minister,” Philippe said as he left the Hotel Mont Joli, which the rebels have frequented since taking the city. “Whether they are integrated into the police or army, the name doesn’t matter as long as they can enforce security.”
Leaders of the United States, other countries and human rights groups have urged Haiti’s U.S.-backed interim government to keep its distance from Philippe’s rebels. Some have criticized interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue for hailing the rebels as “freedom fighters.”
So far, the rebels still control much of the north where police were driven out during the rebellion in February, and tensions have run high since some officers have returned.
In New York, U.N. envoy Reginald Dumas, just back from Haiti, said the international community must make a commitment of at least 20 years to bring peace to Haiti and raise its living standards.
Dumas told reporters that 10 international missions to Haiti in the last decade had failed because there was no sustained commitment.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Aristide, Gilbert Collard, said Wednesday in France that he filed a legal complaint alleging that French authorities had threatened Aristide and helped abduct him. The complaint, filed Tuesday, targets France for ”abduction, illegal detention and threats,” Collard said without giving more specifics.
It singles out four people who Aristide’s lawyers have suggested in the past had a role in his departure: Thierry Burkard, France’s ambassador to Haiti; Yves Gaudel, a former ambassador; Regis Debray, president of a commission on French-Haitian relations; and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin’s sister, Veronique Albanel.