- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his wife will travel to Jamaica next week, returning to the Caribbean less than three weeks after fleeing into exile, Jamaica’s prime minister said yesterday .

Mr. Aristide, ousted Feb. 29 at the height of a popular rebellion, currently is staying in the Central African Republic while seeking long-term asylum elsewhere.

Mr. Aristide wants to be reunited with his two young daughters, who are in New York, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said. The girls were sent there to stay with the mother of Mr. Aristide’s American wife, Mildred, for their safety.

Mr. Patterson said Mr. Aristide was not seeking political asylum in Jamaica, where he will stay for up to 10 weeks.

“Mister Aristide has expressed a wish to return temporarily to the Caribbean with his wife and to be reunited with their two young children, who are currently in the United States,” Mr. Patterson said in a statement.

He added that Mr. Aristide was finalizing plans for “permanent residence outside of the region,” although he did not say where.

Mr. Aristide is expected to arrive early next week, Mr. Patterson said.

Mr. Aristide says he still is Haiti’s legitimate leader and has accused the U.S. government of forcing him from his post.

The United States has denied those accusations.

In Haiti, the new prime minister, Gerard Latortue, began choosing a Cabinet yesterday and insisted that ridding the population of weapons is a top priority.

U.S. Army Gen. James Hill said international troops would work to collect weapons ranging from “rusted M-1s to top-of-the-line Uzis.”

Both the rebels and Aristide supporters say they won’t give up their weapons until their enemies do.

Yesterday, shots were fired at a rally of hundreds of people carrying parasols with Mr. Aristide’s image through downtown Belair.

“Aristide has to come back. We don’t want Bush as president,” the protesters yelled.

They scattered when the shots were fired, and no injuries were reported.

The death toll from the monthlong rebellion and reprisal killings has risen to more than 300. With no government in charge, many corpses strewn around Port-au-Prince have been left to rot on sidewalks.

At La Saline seaside slum, the body of a man shot on Tuesday remained in the street yesterday. Adults averted their eyes, but children on bicycles locked their gaze on the corpse.

“If the body stays another day, the pigs will start to eat it,” said barber Remy Ileron, 40. “This month, that’s been happening a lot.”

Mr. Latortue met yesterday with interim President Boniface Alexandre to discuss a Cabinet that he wants to include retired army Chief of Staff Herard Abraham as head of security.

Mr. Abraham supports recreating Haiti’s once-disgraced army, a key demand of rebels who helped force Mr. Aristide from office.

Aristide militants refuse to recognize the new leaders, supporting Mr. Aristide’s contention that he was forced from power by the United States and France. His lawyer in Paris said Wednesday he was considering bringing charges against ambassadors of both countries.

U.S. Ambassador James Foley, speaking in a BBC interview broadcast yesterday, said Mr. Aristide “never once said that he didn’t want to go.”

“He never said: ‘I think you are wrong. I think your assessment is wrong. I’m going to stay. I’m going to ride it out’,” Mr. Foley said. “It was all about his departure.”

A once-popular slum priest, Mr. Aristide was elected on promises to champion the poor, but lost support as misery deepened and Haitians accused his government of corruption and attacks against his political opponents.

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