Preval Says Aristide Can Return to Haiti
Another decade down the drain.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Haiti's president-elect said Wednesday that the nation's constitution permits the return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but Rene Preval declined to say whether he would welcome home his exiled former mentor.

Preval, a 63-year-old agronomist, said Aristide could not be barred from returning to the volatile Caribbean nation two years after he was toppled in a bloody revolt. ``My position is simple on President Aristide and any other citizen who wants to come to Haiti,'' Preval said in his first news conference since he was declared the winner of the Feb. 7 election. ``Article 41 of the Haitian Constitution says that no Haitian needs a visa to enter or leave the country.''

The United States said Wednesday that Arisitide's return would serve no useful purpose, with State Department spokesman Adam Ereli saying: ``Aristide is from the past. We're looking to the future.''

Aristide said Wednesday he wants to return from exile in South Africa, but that the timing of his arrival in Haiti would be up to ``my president'' and other leaders. ``The date of my return will emerge from consultations'' among Preval, the United Nations, the Caribbean Community and his host, the South African government, the ousted leader said in an interview with international news agencies.

Asked if he had spoken to Preval, Aristide said, ``It's a private issue.''

It remains unclear if Aristide could return without consequences. Officials with Haiti's interim government have said Aristide and every other person in Haiti could be charged with corruption and other crimes, though no indictments have been issued against him.

Preval said his government would have two main priorities during his five-year term: rebuilding Haiti's gutted and corruption-prone civil institutions, and improving security to attract private investment and jobs. ``I talked to a lot of people during my campaign, and almost everyone told me they don't have work,'' Preval said. ``It is the private sector that must invest, but it is the state that has to create a stable environment.''

The president-elect stopped short of saying whether he would offer amnesty to heavily armed gangs - some with alleged ties to Aristide - that have been blamed for a wave of kidnappings that helped delay the elections.
Posted by: Steve White 2006-02-23