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Aristide supporters attack students { February 21 2004 }

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Haiti's Aristide supporters attack students
Sat 21 February, 2004 02:49

By Michael Christie

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide armed with guns, rocks and machetes have attacked an opposition student march in the Haitian capital as foreigners fled the country torn by an armed rebellion.

At least 17 people were injured by buckshot, rocks or shrapnel from flying bullets a day before U.S., Canadian and regional officials were due to arrive to try to defuse long-simmering tensions that erupted two weeks ago into a revolt in which more than 50 people have died.

The diplomatic effort is limited to bringing together Aristide and the political opposition, rather than the armed gangs, joined by former soldiers and a death squad leader, who booted police out of several towns and villages in the northwest and centre of the poor Caribbean country.

But the military commander of the rebels, who have declared an "independent" country in the city of Gonaives, the central town of Hinche and other areas they control, said they were prepared to take part in a peace process if it met their demands for Aristide to step down.

"We have never ruled out a peaceful solution," said Guy Philippe, a former police chief of Haiti's second-largest city, Cap-Haitien, whom Aristide once accused of fomenting a coup and who came back from exile in the Dominican Republic to join the armed revolt.

"If they reach a good deal, we are prepared to collaborate," Philippe said in Gonaives, dressed in military fatigues and surrounded by former soldiers from Haiti's disbanded military.

Restored to power by a U.S.-led occupation in 1994 after being ousted in a coup, Aristide led Haiti into democracy after decades of dictatorship when first elected in 1990. He won a second term of office in 2000, but the presidential elections were boycotted by the opposition over earlier flawed parliamentary elections.

But the former parish priest now faces accusations of corruption and political violence.


Overtaking towns by forcing poorly trained and frightened police to flee, the rebels have presented no agenda other than giving themselves titles and saying they aim to take control of the rest of the country and topple Aristide.

With little sign of a quick fix, the United States and Canada advised their citizens to leave. Missionaries and aid workers clogged the airport in the chaotic capital of 2 million people on Friday.

The Pentagon said a U.S. military team had arrived to conduct a security assessment for the U.S. Embassy, which was closed for the five-day Carnival holiday. A spokeswoman said two embassy cars were fired on earlier in the week.

The revolt, begun on February 5 by a gang that once served as enforcers for Aristide's ruling Lavalas Family party, was countered ferociously in some parts of the country by the president's supporters, who burned down opponent's homes and executed rebel sympathisers.

Police took no action when armed youths pounced on the student march and also attacked foreign journalists.

As foreign peace efforts got under way, both the government and the opposition Democratic Platform held talks with diplomats from the United States, Canada, France, the Organisation of American States and Caribbean Community (Caricom), on Friday to lay the groundwork for a higher-level mission on Saturday.

U.S. Ambassador James Foley met Aristide and told him to accept a plan to install a new prime minister who could choose Cabinet members.

The international delegation's proposal is broadly based on a recent deal brokered by Caricom that calls for a broad-based advisory council, a new prime minister and the disarming of gangs aligned with the Lavalas party.

But some opposition leaders warned they would not accept any peace plan that does not include Aristide's resignation, an option he has rejected.

"I hope they're not coming back with the same position," said Charles Baker, a wealthy industrialist and fervent foe of Aristide. "We'll both be wasting our time."

American ambassador in haiti accuses US of coup { January 29 2006 }
Americans flee haiti as rebellion spreads { February 20 2004 }
Answers to questions about haiti coup { March 2 2004 }
Aristide lawsuit against us france over kidnapping
Aristide supporters attack students { February 21 2004 }
Aristide urges peaceful resistance to occupation
At least 41 die in haiti rebellion
Bush holds out for political settlement
Bush presses aristide to quit { February 29 2004 }
Drug dealer accuses aristide
France calls for aristide to resign { February 26 2004 }
France considers peace keepers for haiti
French and us planes land in haiti capital
Gangs rampage in haiti capital
Haiti uprising spreads
Haitian rebels moving towards capital
IFES helped oust aristide colonize haiti { December 20 2004 }
Marines arrive to guard haiti embassy
Powell disappointed in haiti government { February 12 2004 }
Un fails to evacuate staff from haiti
Us pushes for regime change in haiti
Us wont send haiti help { February 19 2004 }
Whos who in hatian crisis
Why france and us had to crush aristide { March 2 2004 }

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