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Caribbean Leaders Hold Off Ties With Haiti

Caribbean Leaders Hold Off Ties With Haiti

Tue Nov 9,10:43 PM ET World - AP Latin America

By JENS-ULRICH POPPEN, Associated Press Writer

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad - Caribbean leaders again held off renewing ties with Haiti suspended since the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide citing concerns Tuesday over the way the U.S.-backed leadership is governing.

In a statement issued at the end of the two-day talks, leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community said there will be "no compromise on the fundamental principles of respect for human rights, due process and good governance."

Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of Grenada told The
Associated Press that "not only means the holding of democratic elections but also a stop to the harassment of the political opposition."

He didn't specify what he was referring to, but some Aristide supporters say they are being persecuted, and a number of top pro-Aristide politicians are jailed, including former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who denies alleged links to killings during the revolt that led up to Aristide's Feb. 29 ouster.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said last month that most of the Caribbean supported renewing ties with Haiti, while Guyana, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were preventing other nations from accepting his government.

Those three countries appeared to remain opposed to the idea.

Relations between the Caribbean Community and Haiti collapsed in March when the interim government was installed and Jamaica offered temporary refuge to Aristide.

Aristide, now in exile in South Africa, has said U.S. forces had kidnapped him, an accusation U.S. officials deny.

New violence has broken out in Haiti since Caribbean leaders discussed relations at a July meeting.

Violence has surged since Sept. 30, when police
reportedly fired on protesters demanding Aristide's return, killing two. The beheaded bodies of three police were found the next day. Since Sept. 30, at least 80 people have been killed and scores wounded in politically motivated clashes.

Mitchell, chairman of the Caribbean Community, urged Latortue's government to engage Aristide's Lavalas Family party to be involved in elections planned for next year.

The Caribbean leaders' decision means that for the moment Haiti's seat in the regional bloc will remain vacant until a solution to the impasse is reached.

Caribbean leaders also have agreed to work with Latin American countries under the leadership of Brazil to facilitate dialogue among Haiti's opposing factions.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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