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8068: Leader Puts Condition on Haiti Talks (AP) (fwd)




From: amedard@gte.net

MAY 26, 20:31 EST

Leader Puts Condition on Haiti Talks

By MICHAEL NORTON
Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP)  Haiti's opposition leader said Saturday that he would
refuse to participate in talks with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide unless two
detained activists were released.

The challenge from Gerard Gourgue, who heads the opposition alliance Convergence,
came three days before the arrival of Organization of American States Secretary
General Cesar Gaviria, who is expected to try to bring the two sides together.

On Saturday, black-clad police with face masks entered a suburban restaurant where
former Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril was signing his new book, ``The Dark Obscurity of
Insecurity,'' about Haiti's recent wave of crime.

Avril, an adviser to former dictators Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier, was led away
in handcuffs and accused of plotting against national security, his son Gregoire
Avril said.

In 1988, just two years after Jean-Claude ``Baby Doc'' Duvalier fled to France,
Prosper Avril and a group of mutinous soldiers overthrew the government of
then-President Henri Namphy. The soldiers believed a church massacre that left 13
dead was orchestrated by Namphy's government.

Avril stayed in power for 18 months, but violent demonstrations broke out after he
exiled several opposition leaders. He soon resigned under international pressure and
fled to Florida, where he lived for years. He now heads a right-wing political party,
called Credo, and is in his mid-60s.

Gourgue, who heads the 15-party opposition alliance called Convergence, said Saturday
that he would not hold talks ``in the climate of repression the government has
imposed.''

Gourgue demanded both Avril and activist Gabriel Fortune be released. Credo is not a
part of Convergence.

Fortune was arrested Monday after a shootout at a meeting of Haitian opposition
leaders in the southern town of Les Cayes. Aristide supporters arrived at the meeting
and somehow shooting began, leaving three of the president's supporters injured. Both
sides blame the other for the injuries.

Fortune's role in the incident was not immediately clear.

Local leaders from Convergence had been meeting in a house across the street from a
spot where they planned to hold a protest rally when Monday's shooting occurred.

The protest was to mark the first anniversary of disputed local and legislative
elections that resulted in a sweep by Aristide's Lavalas Family party. The opposition
boycotted the presidential race in November, in which Aristide was elected to a
five-year term.