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a441: Haitian prime minister formally resigns (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Michael Deibert

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Haiti's embattled Prime
Minister Jean-Marie Cherestal, who had faced a rising tide of criticism
even from members of the ruling party over his failure to deal with the
country's political and economic woes, formally resigned on Monday.
     It was not yet known when President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who
remains the most powerful political figure in the impoverished Caribbean
nation, would pick a successor.
     Cherestal, who as prime minister was charged with the day-to-day
running of government, officially tendered his resignation at a meeting
with his cabinet and Aristide, after a weekend of speculation following
reports he was quitting.
     "The Prime Minister offered to step down and President Aristide
accepted his resignation," Minister of Communication Guy Paul told
reporters as he left the meeting.
     Word of Cherestal's resignation surfaced last Friday when local media
said he wrote to Aristide offering to quit.
     Government sources said Aristide had asked cabinet ministers to stay
in their jobs until he chose a new prime minister. The new incumbent could
pick new ministers or leave the current cabinet as it is.
     Local media speculated that a likely candidate to replace Cherestal
was Anthony Dessources, who served as Minister of Cooperation under former
President Rene Preval.
     Cherestal was picked by Aristide shortly after the president took
office for a second term a year ago. But the economy in the country of 8
million people has continued to deteriorate and political leaders have also
failed to resolve a dispute over legislative elections 21 months ago that
has held up much-needed international aid.
     Cherestal defended his record a week ago before the Senate, which is
dominated by Aristide's ruling party, Lavalas Family. Speaking to reporters
afterward, senators were divided on the government's performance. Senate
President Yvon Neptune was supportive, but Lavalas Senator Prince Pierre
Sonson dismissed Cherestal as "???se corruption has done nothing for the
     Cherestal had also been accused of enriching himself at the nation's
expense. One point of criticism was the purchase of a $2 million home for
the prime minister -- which Cherestal has said was bought as the official
prime minister's residence rather than for him personally.
     The political crisis that bedeviled Cherestal's tenure began with
parliamentary elections in May 2000. Critics at home and abroad charged
that the method of calculating the results gave Lavalas more outright wins
in Senate contests than it was due. The ruling party and the main
opposition group, Democratic Convergence, have since been in a deadlock
that has held up foreign aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.