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a624: Haiti's Aristide seeks talks on disputed election (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Michael Deibert
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Monday urged the country's main opposition group
to return to the negotiating table and resolve an election dispute that has
held up international aid to the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Aristide, seeking to break an impasse between his ruling Lavalas
Family party and the opposition Democratic Convergence coalition over the
May 2000 parliamentary elections, pressed the opposition to agree to a
timetable for resolving several contested elections.
"I don't have enemies in the opposition, I have opponents, and they
are my brothers," Aristide told a news conference. He reiterated his offer
to hold new elections for seven Senate seats in November as well as
elections for deputies in Haiti's lower house.
Nearly $500 million of international aid has been withheld from Haiti
as the result of the election dispute, which arose after critics abroad and
at home charged the way the results were calculated gave the Lavalas party
more Senate seats than it was due.
Gerard Pierre-Charles, a former Aristide supporter and leading member
of Convergence, appeared skeptical about Aristide's pledge to negotiate a
timetable for new elections.
"We will meet Aristide only if there is a substantive discussion about
negotiations for the disputed elections," he said. Political sources said
last week that Pierre-Charles and Aristide are due to meet soon for the
first face-to-face meeting between the two sides in nearly a year.
Aristide said a date for new elections would have to be decided by a
Provisional Electoral Council whose make-up has yet to be agreed upon.
Convergence has refused to sign an agreement for holding new elections, or
submitting names of potential nominees to the council.
Seven Lavalas senators have vacated their seats in preparation for
holding new elections in the disputed contests, but no timetable has been
agreed on and the Convergence has so far insisted on repeating elections
for all local and national seats, excluding the presidency.