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8569: Haitians Greet Aristide in Bahamas (fwd)

From: Dan Craig <dgcraig@att.net>

Haitians Greet Aristide in Bahamas

Filed at 12:56 a.m. ET

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) -- Thousands of Haitians living in the Bahamas
crowded into a church auditorium to welcome Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide after his arrival for an annual summit of
Caribbean leaders.

Supporters chanted Aristide's name shortly before he entered the
Church of God of Prophecy Auditorium on Wednesday night. The hall
was packed to capacity with about 4,000 people, and thousands more
crowded outside to listen.

``When you are suffering, I am suffering with you,'' Aristide said
in Creole to the crowd. He asked for a moment of silence to
remember Haitians who drowned after leaving their impoverished
country by boat.

Last week, 17 Haitian immigrants died when their overloaded 30-foot
boat ran aground on Rum Cay, a small island in the southeastern
Bahamas. More than 70 others survived.

Aristide arrived in the Bahamas earlier in the day to attend the
Caribbean Community's annual summit. The region's leaders planned
to discuss Haiti's political crisis during a retreat on Thursday.

Hopes that Haiti's governing and opposition parties could end a
yearlong standoff faded this week as talks broke down. Although
both sides made a breakthrough by agreeing to the composition of an
electoral council, they could not compromise on when or how to
conduct the parliamentary elections.

Caribbean Community Assistant Secretary-General Albert Ramdin
expressed hope for progress.

``A couple of weeks ago the political environment was not one of
getting toward a political agreement. That's changed now, so we
have momentum,'' Ramdin said.

Haiti is a provisional member of the 14-member Caribbean Community,
which is largely made up of former British colonies. 


Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company