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24470: (news) Chamberlain: South Africa-Aristide (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide said Wednesday that recent demonstrations in his home country
proved there was a groundswell of support for his return, and he urged an
end to continuing political violence.
Aristide has been living in exile in South Africa since being forced out
of Haiti by a popular uprising in February 2004. He vowed to return to
Haiti but denied reports he was stirring up trouble there from his home
base in Pretoria.
"That is false. ... They are looking for a scapegoat to find a way to
justify what they cannot justify," he said of his critics, whom he termed
"drug dealers and convicts" financed by the U.S. State Department.
"How can I have such power from South Africa? All I can do is pray they
will not kill the people while they are demonstrating."
Aristide praised the United Nations for helping guarantee the safety of
thousands of his supporters at a Tuesday demonstration in the Haitian
capital, Port-Au-Prince. The 7,400-member U.N. peacekeeping force and the
interim Haitian government are struggling to contain flashpoints of
violence ahead of promised general elections between October and November.
"It was a beautiful piece of history yesterday when people were able to
demonstrate peacefully and there were no thugs," Aristide said, according
to the South African Press Association.
"They were demonstrating because they wanted their elected president
back home," Aristide told reporters after giving a speech at the University
of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
Demonstrations last week coinciding with the anniversary of Aristide's
exile turned violent, and at least two protesters were killed by police
Aristide said that since his self-described "kidnapping," 10,000
Haitians had been killed in political violence.
Several parts of the impoverished country remain under the control of
former soldiers and street gangs that led the three-week rebellion that
ousted Aristide -- raising concerns about their ability to sway elections.
Members of Aristide's Lavalas Family Party have refused to participate in
elections until he returns from exile.
Aristide vowed to return to Haiti.
"I will return. I don't know when, but I will return," SAPA quoted him
"My dream is to continue to serve the people. My constitution prevents
me from serving as president again. That leaves me to do what I always
wanted to do -- to serve as a priest."
Before his election to his first term of office in 1990, Aristide was a
Roman Catholic priest.