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#3106: Worried by Haiti killing, US urges prompt election (fwd)


WIRE:04/03/2000 17:31:00 ET
Worried by Haiti killing, US urges prompt election
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States urged Haiti to set  a date   
for parliamentary elections after political tensions in  the Caribbean
nation hit a peak on Monday with the  killing of a  prominent journalist
and democracy advocate.  "We believe that credible elections can be held
in April  and May, in time to convene the new parliament by the second 
Monday of June, consistent with Haitian constitutional law,"  State 
Department spokesman James Rubin told a news  briefing.  Legislative
elections have been postponed three times  and  President Rene Preval
has refused to ratify a new date chosen by  the Provisional Electoral
Council,saying the announcement of  the date was invalid.  Former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, associated along  with the prime
minister and Preval with the same political  party, is expected to run
for and win the presidency in another  election scheduled for the end  
of 2000.   Opponents of the government believe it is delaying         
the  legislative election so as to hold it at the same time as the 
presidential ballot and help the Lavalas Family Party win seats  on
Aristide's coat tails.  But Rubin urged the government to set a date for
the ballot,  warning: "Significant further delays would undermine the 
credibility of the electoral process and greatly put at risk the 
current momentum towards holding the election soon."  Preval dissolved
parliament in January 1999 to end an 18-month political stalemate and
installed a new prime minister  and cabinet. He has ruled by decree   
ever since.  The shooting early on Monday of Jean Leopold Dominique,
69,  owner and director of Radio Haiti Inter and special advisor to 
Preval, came amid rising tensions and almost daily street 
demonstrations     protesting the failure to hold elections.  Dominique,
one of Haiti's best known journalists, was shot  several times in the
head and chest as he arrived for work at  the station on a busy street
in the capital,   Port-au-Prince.A security guard working at the
station, Jean-Claude Louissaint, was also shot several times and died of
a bullet  wound to the neck.  The motive for the shooting was not
immediately  known.  Former Culture Minister Jean-Claude  Bajeux, a
human rights  advocate, called it an  "assassination". Dominique's
brother  was killed under     the dictatorial regime of President
Francois  "Papa Doc" Duvalier.  
Calling on the Haitian government to ensure a thorough and  prompt
investigation, Rubin said: "There  have been a number of  reported
threats against opposition candidates."  He added: "Failure to
constitute promptly a legitimate  parliament will risk isolating Haiti
from the community of  democracies and jeopardize future cooperation and
assistance."  The United States sent 20,000 troops as part of an 
international invasion force to restore former Aristide to power  in
1994 and has been Haiti's largest donor since 1973.