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Aristide Loyalists Protest in Haiti

About 3,000 marchers go to U.S. and French embassies to show anger with two nations.

March 07, 2004|From Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Three thousand supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide marched on the U.S. and French embassies Friday, shouting their anger at his ouster. A seven-member council met for the first time to help form a transitional government.

The protesters, a few with pistols tucked into their belts, charged past embassies and the presidential National Palace, chanting, "Long live Aristide!" and "Down with George Bush!" U.S. troops watched impassively as the protesters passed by.

It was the first large protest in favor of Aristide since the ousted president fled to Africa last weekend.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe said he might meet with opposition leaders to talk about reestablishing the army, which was disbanded in 1995. Haitian armies have fomented 32 coups in the country's 200 years of independence.

U.S. Gen. James Hill of the Southern Command opposed the idea, saying, "There is no need for a Haitian army." He said earlier that U.S. light armored vehicles were placed at the presidential palace to stop looting that had erupted in recent days and prevent opposition forces from taking over.

The Marines arrived the day Aristide left, followed by French and Chilean troops, forming the vanguard of a U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping force expected to number about 5,000. Canada said it is sending 450 soldiers within days.

The Marines so far have met no resistance, although there has been none of the jubilation that accompanied their last intervention in Haiti -- in 1994, when 20,000 troops ousted a brutal military dictatorship, halted an exodus of boat people to Florida and restored Aristide to power.

A spokesman said U.S. troops had expanded their presence in Haiti beyond the capital and into rebel strongholds. Special teams from the U.S. Southern Command in Florida arrived at the rebel bases of Cap-Haitien, on Haiti's north coast; the western city of Gonaives; and possibly other locations across the country, said Army Maj. Richard Crusan, spokesman for the interim international force.

The teams are in addition to the 1,100 Marines in Port-au-Prince, Crusan said.

Witnesses in Cap-Haitien said police were disarming rebels who took that city Feb. 22.

Radio Metropole said there has been some resistance to disarming, particularly in Gonaives, but no fighting was reported.

On the political front, the seven-member Council of Sages is expected to name a new prime minister within days, the Organization of American States said. The council was chosen by members of Aristide's Lavalas Family party, the opposition and the international community.

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