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18064: (Chamberlain) Haiti-Protest (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By MICHAEL NORTON
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 21 (AP) -- More than 20,000 Haitians marched in
support of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Wednesday after police fired
tear gas to prevent about 200 of his opponents from demonstrating.
It was the second time in three days police have used tear gas against
anti-government protesters. Police also fired warning shots into the air as
the anti-Aristide group was about to set off from Haiti's state university.
Several minor injuries were reported and one medical student was
arrested for disturbing the peace.
Just blocks away, meanwhile, a pro-government demonstration swelled to
thousands of people.
"Long live Aristide!" shouted Bernier Civil, 44. "We are marching
because everyone should participate in elections. "The opposition is afraid
to participate in elections because we are the majority."
The Democratic Platform -- a coalition of opposition parties, clergy,
students and business leaders -- refuses to participate in new legislative
elections unless Aristide resigns. It also wants to set up a transitional
government until new elections can be held in two years.
Demonstrations against Aristide have surged in the past four months,
some turning violent and claiming the lives of 47 people.
Pressure has been building on Aristide's government since his party won
2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed.
Members of the opposition coalition are meeting with Caribbean leaders
in Bahamas to address grievances they have against Aristide.
The Haitian opposition has refused to allow government representatives
participate in the Bahamas session.