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a236: Haitian government tries to reach out to opposition (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 4 (Reuters) - In a gesture to its political
foes after violence against opposition supporters that followed an attack
last month on the presidential palace, the Haitian government said on
Friday it would help repair opposition party buildings burned by street
     But one opposition leader called the move a provocation.
     About 30 heavily armed men, identified later by authorities as former
members of Haiti's disbanded army, tried to storm the National Palace on
Dec. 17 in what the government called an attempt to oust President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his ruling Lavalas Family party from power.
     The attack was quelled within hours but pro-Lavalas mobs roamed the
streets of Port-au-Prince for a day, torching opposition buildings and the
homes of party members. Some 13 people died in the attack and the
retaliatory violence.
     On Friday, Aristide's government said it was forming a commission to
rebuild structures burned down and added it wanted to work with the
opposition to bring to justice those responsible for attacks on supporters
of the main opposition alliance, the Democratic Convergence.
     Speaking to reporters at the ruins of the headquarters for Convergence
member parties OPL and KONAKAM, Minister of Justice Gary Lissade said "the
government will be creating a commission to help the victims of this crime
repair the damage. We are committed to working together with the Democratic
Convergence to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice."
     He visited along with the Minister of Finance, Gustave Faubert, and
the Minister of Public Works, Ernst Laraque.
     But speaking on local radio, former Senator Paul Denis, a leading
member of the Convergence, called the visit by the government ministers "an
unacceptable provocation" and locked the entrance to the OPL compound.
     The government ministers were still able to tour the ruins of the
KONOKAM headquarters as the doors had been unhinged and burnt during the
     In a related development on Friday, the Dominican Republic said it had
decided not to hand over to Haiti a former senior Haitian police officer
accused of leading last month's coup attempt. The Dominican government said
it was in discussions with third countries to seek a place to send Guy
Philippe, a former police chief in the northern city of Cap Haitien.
     The Convergence and Lavalas have been locked in a bitter political
stalemate since legislative elections in May 2000, which Convergence
leaders and foreign critics say were tabulated in a way that gave
Aristide's party more seats in the Senate than it was due.
     Opposition politicians said the attack on Dec. 17 was staged as a
pretext to crack down on opposition parties, the media and civil rights
groups. The government was criticized by rights groups in the days after
the attack for failing to rein in the mob violence that ensued.
     Aristide, Haiti's first freely elected leader, was deposed by the
military soon after taking power in 1991. He was restored by a U.S.-led
invasion force in 1994 and disbanded the Haitian army shortly afterward.
     Aristide was reelected president in November 2000 in elections
boycotted by an opposition still angry over the parliamentary elections
earlier in the year.