- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

From combined dispatches

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, visited U.S. peacekeepers in Haiti yesterday, hours after Marines killed two more armed Haitians.

Gen. Myers arrived in Port-au-Prince at the end of a Latin American trip, visiting troops sent to restore order after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile last month.

Gen. Myers, spending just a few hours in Haiti, was to take a helicopter from the heavily guarded airport to the Marines’ base in another part of the sprawling capital, avoiding roads that pass through some of the slums that are a stronghold of support for the ousted president.

The latest shooting took place Friday night after suspected supporters of Mr. Aristide opened fire on Marines patrolling a slum near the National Palace in Port-au-Prince.

The Marines, leading a U.N.-sanctioned 2,550-member international peace force, have fought half a dozen battles since their landing on Feb. 29, hours after Mr. Aristide was pushed out of Haiti by a monthlong revolt.

Mr. Aristide, in exile in the Central African Republic, was planning to fly to Jamaica in the next few days to visit his family. He has claimed that he was forced out of Haiti by the U.S. government.

A delegation of U.S. and Jamaican officials — including Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, and a representative of Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson — was scheduled to leave Miami yesterday on a charter plane for the Central African Republic to bring Mr. Aristide to Jamaica, activist Randall Robinson told the Associated Press. Mr. Robinson said he also would be on the plane.

Haiti’s new prime minister, Gerard Latortue, has warned that Mr. Aristide’s return to the region would only increase tension in Haiti, and said he would not meet with the ousted leader. Mr. Aristide planned to stay several weeks in Jamaica visiting with his family.

Gunbattles erupted, meanwhile, in the seaside slum of Cite Soleil yesterday. The shantytown is also a pro-Aristide stronghold, but the gunfire purportedly was coming from gangs and not between peacekeepers and bandits. At least one person was wounded, and residents in the poor neighborhood said the fight began over a shipment of donated rice and flour.

The violence is the biggest challenge facing Mr. Latortue, who was sworn in Friday and who has said bringing stability and peace to Haiti is his top priority.

Initially the U.S. Marines and French peacekeepers were sent to secure key sites and provide security. Their mission has changed, however, and now they are working with Haitian police to disarm the general population. U.S. troops have shot and killed at least six Haitians in the past week.

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