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a536: Haiti's Aristide to meet with opposition (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Michael Deibert

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide will meet soon with an opposition leader to discuss
a stalemate over the 2000 parliamentary elections, the first face-to-face
meeting between the two sides in nearly a year, party sources said on
     No date was announced for the meeting between Aristide and Gerard
Pierre-Charles, a leader of the Democratic Convergence opposition
coalition, but a Convergence member told Reuters it could be "soon."
     Pierre-Charles is a human rights activist and former Aristide
supporter who has lately been one of the Haitian president's fiercest
critics. Pro-government mobs burned down his house after a failed coup
attempt in December.
     Pierre-Charles said he would meet with the president as a
representative of his political party, the Organization of Struggling
People, and as a member of the Convergence, not to mend fences privately.
     "I will meet President Aristide under the auspices of representing the
Democratic Convergence, not as a private citizen," Pierre-Charles said.
"And only if there is a substantive discussion about negotiations for the
disputed elections."
     Aristide's Lavalas Family party and the 15-party Convergence have been
locked in a bitter 21-month dispute over the May 2000 legislative
     Critics at home and abroad accuse the government of using faulty
vote-counting methods to give Lavalas more seats than it was due. More than
$500 million of desperately needed international aid has been withheld as a
     "The opposition must understand the political realities," Foreign
Affairs Minister Antonio Joseph told local media. "We must have dialogue to
put an end to this deadlock."
     Seven Lavalas senators have vacated their seats in preparation for
rerunning elections in disputed contests, but no timetable has been agreed
on and the Convergence has insisted on rerunning all local and national
seats, excluding the presidency.
     Bad blood between the two sides only increased after a failed coup
attempt in December. More than 30 heavily armed gunmen stormed the National
Palace in an apparent attempt to oust Aristide, who was asleep at his home
in suburban Delmas.
     Afterward, pro-government mobs burned down the headquarters of several
Convergence member parties, as well as the homes of several of their
leaders, including that of Pierre-Charles.
     The meeting would mark the first face-to-face dialogue between
Aristide and the opposition since February 2001.
     Pierre-Charles urged the Organization of American States to help
facilitate negotiations. At the Summit of the Americas in April, the OAS
singled out Haiti as a state where democracy is struggling and urged
Aristide to make good on reform pledges.