Aristide urges peaceful resistance to occupation
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Aristide Urges Peaceful Resistance to 'Occupation'
Mon Mar 8, 2004 08:07 AM ET
By Andrew Gray
BANGUI, Central African Republic (Reuters) - Ousted Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide appealed from exile in Africa Monday for peaceful resistance to what he called the "occupation" of Haiti and repeated a claim he was kidnapped by U.S. forces.
Appearing for the first time in public since his arrival in Central African Republic a week ago, Aristide insisted he was abducted from his homeland, which the United States has denied.
"The fact is there was a political abduction," Aristide told reporters in the Central African capital Bangui, flanked by his wife and Central African Republic's foreign minister.
"This unfortunately has paved the way for occupation and ... we launch an appeal for peaceful resistance (in Haiti)," said Aristide, looking composed in a dark blue suit. "I'm choosing my words carefully: for a peaceful resistance."
Facing a bloody rebellion and international pressure, Aristide left his impoverished Caribbean nation on February 29. U.S. Marines are leading an international peace mission in Haiti approved by the United Nations to restore order after days of looting and shooting following his flight into exile.
Aristide's comments came the day after suspected supporters of the exiled leader sprayed gunfire into a crowd of thousands of jubilant revelers celebrating his downfall, killing at least six and wounding 18.
Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, became a champion of Haiti's impoverished masses when he helped overthrow the brutal Duvalier family dictatorship in 1986. He said his ouster was unconstitutional.
"I am the elected president and I remain the elected president," said Aristide, sitting on a red armchair. "I am pleading for the restoration of democracy."
Central African authorities have expressed annoyance that Aristide has repeatedly accused the United States of kidnapping him. The news conference appeared to be an effort to quash reports that he was being held a virtual prisoner by his hosts.
Aristide said he had never been a prisoner in Central African Republic but claimed he had been held captive in Haiti's capital on the February 28 and 29, prior to being jetted to the former French colony.
He brushed off questions about his ultimate destination saying the important thing was to keep calling for the restoration of democratic rule in the poor Caribbean nation.
South Africa, which has backed Aristide in the past, said last week it would consider any official request for asylum.