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a410: Haiti-Prime Minister (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 18 (AP) -- Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Marie
Cherestal has resigned amid mounting criticism over the government's
failure to improve the poor Caribbean country's economy, a government
official said Friday.
   Cherestal's resignation was dated Wednesday and delivered to President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a government official told The Associated Press
Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
   Senators had voted Monday to call Cherestal to appear before them next
week, when it was expected the two houses of the legislature would pass a
vote of no confidence against him, forcing his resignation.
   "We have a majority, and Cherestal will be forced to step down," Senate
Secretary Sen. Gerard Gilles, who spearheaded the anti-Cherestal movement
in the Senate, said after Cherestal's appearance Monday.
   The Haitian president is chief of state in the Haitian government, but
the premier runs the bureaucracy and is accountable to lawmakers.
   For months Aristide supporters have been calling for Cherestal's
resignation in street demonstrations, complaining the economic situation of
Haiti's 8.2 million people has deteriorated since Parliament confirmed him
after Aristide was re-elected.
   Cherestal, 54, has said the government's failures were due to political
opposition and lack of international financial support.
   Cherestal was unable to resolve the political crisis that began with
flawed local and legislative elections that Aristide's party swept in 2000.
The international community has blocked hundreds of millions of foreign aid
dollars until a consensus is reached with the opposition.
   In one year, the economic growth rate has slumped below zero, and
political instability increased.
   An armed attack Dec. 17 on the National Palace, which the government
described as a failed coup, left at least 10 dead and nine wounded in the
assault and subsequent violence. Aristide partisans torched and plundered
the offices of opposition parties and the private residences of their
   The opposition has accused the government of staging the event to clamp
down on dissent.
   Gilles echoed protesters' accusations of wasteful government spending.
   In May, the government purchased the midtown mansion of U.S. businessman
Marc Ashton, a longtime Haiti resident, for $1.7 million. The mansion was
to house Cherestal.
   Another $1.2 million was spent on another mansion for Aristide's
predecessor, former President Rene Preval.
   Opposition politicians said Cherestal was being made to take the blame
for the governing party's alleged incompetence.
   Aristide must now choose a new premier.