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6944: AP Aristide is sworn in (fwd)

From: Jean Jean-Pierre <jean@acd-pc.com>

          February 7, 2001

          Aristide Starts 2nd Term in Haiti


          Filed at 11:17 a.m. ET

          PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) --
          Jean-Bertrand Aristide was sworn in
          Wednesday, returning to power as
          Haiti's president on a promise to bring
          change to a country devastated by
          poverty and torn by political divisions.

          Holding his hand on a Bible, the former
          Roman Catholic priest took the oath of
          office before Parliament. He stood
          stone-faced through the swearing-in then
          smiled as his predecessor, Rene Preval,
          slipped the red-and-blue presidential
          sash over his left shoulder.

          Hundreds of supporters filled the streets outside the
Legislative Palace,
          even though they had no view of the proceedings inside.

          ``We planted the seed, and now it's time to reap what's sown.
We want
          to make sure all the work we've done for Aristide pays off,''
said Michel
          Frizner, a 28-year-old construction worker who had been
          outside the palace since sunrise.

          While Aristide's return is celebrated by many poor Haitians,
it has been
          shunned by the international community, which was critical of
          and local elections held in May. Of the few diplomats
attending, most are
          ambassadors, not world leaders.

          Aristide, 47, is also challenged by Haiti's opposition
parties, which
          protested fraud in the May vote and have announced their own
          provisional president to head an alternative government while
          new elections.

          Aristide became Haiti's first democratically elected president
in a
          landslide victory in 1990. The army ousted him in September
1991, and
          a U.S. military invasion restored him to power three years

          Constitutionally barred from running for a consecutive term,
          spent only a few months in office before stepping down in 1996
          handing power to his protege, Preval.

          In the Village of Peace, a shantytown built on a state-owned
          outside Port-au-Prince, support for Aristide is strong among
          grateful that they are allowed to stay rent-free.

          ``I will wait for him to make things better,'' said Viergemene
Frederick, a
          38-year-old mother of five who sleeps with her children and
husband in
          one bed in a small cement shack.

          ``Everybody here is for Aristide,'' said Jean-Jaques Nardy,
who also
          lives in the shantytown. ``He didn't have enough time in
office before to
          do anything. This time will be different.''

          In last year's elections, Aristide's Lavalas Family party won
more than 80
          percent of local and parliamentary seats. The Organization of
          States said 10 Senate seats won by Aristide candidates should
have gone
          to a second round vote, and some countries threatened to
withhold aid.

          In a letter to then-President Clinton in December, Aristide
offered to
          rectify the election results, include opposition figures in
his government
          and appoint a new provisional electoral council. But the
          rejected his offers, calling for new elections.

          France and the European Union didn't send representatives to
          inauguration because they ``mean to show their disapproval of
          conditions in which the controversial electoral process took
place,'' the
          French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

          The United States also did not send a delegation and was
          only by its ambassador. Top officials were attending from
          Guatemala, Panama, Belize and other countries.

          Now Aristide faces three challenges: deliver on promises so he
can keep
          the support of Haiti's poor majority; patch up relations with
          international community to secure aid for the poorest country
in the
          Western Hemisphere; and fix an impasse with the opposition.

          Talks to find common ground with the opposition began Saturday
          went on into early Tuesday. But they failed.

          On Tuesday, the 15-party opposition alliance Convergence named

          former presidential candidate Gerard Gourgue, 75, as the
          provisional president in an alternative government. It also
offered Aristide
          a seat on a three-member presidential council. An opposition
          would rule by decree, and general elections would be held by
2003, it

          Aristide's party chose to hold the inauguration on Feb. 7, a
          holiday and the day that dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was
forced from
          power in 1986.

          Children didn't attend school Wednesday, and many telephone
poles had
          been painted in blue and red, the national colors, near the
          Palace, where Aristide was to give his inaugural address.

          Aristide's swearing-in was shown on television throughout the
          and Reynold Pierre, a 29-year-old hotel employee, said he was
          as he watched.

          ``I'm confident that now the country has a chance to
develop,'' he said.