January 21, 2001

Haiti's prime minister blames opposition for blasts

                  PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- Haiti's prime minister has blamed the
                  opposition for street bombings last week that wounded two people, saying it was
                  trying to destabilize the Caribbean nation before next month's inauguration of
                  new President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

                  "After the bombings in Petion-Ville and Port-au-Prince, I can say to the Haitian
                  people that the opposition party is responsible," Prime Minister Jacques Edouard
                  Alexis told reporters late on Saturday.

                  Alexis said that a suspect arrested in connection with the explosions disclosed
                  information implicating the opposition.

                  Opposition figures were not immediately available to comment on the accusation.

                  Four pipe bombs exploded on Friday, two downtown and two in the capital's
                  outskirts, local radio stations reported. Two people were taken to a hospital.

                  Just weeks away before Aristide's February 7 inauguration, tensions have
                  increased in the capital because of an opposition group's plan to form an alternate

                  The opposition, which boycotted the November 26 presidential election because
                  of tainted elections held in May, say they have no intention of plotting a coup.

                  Haiti's government is accused of miscalculating the results of the May legislative
                  and local elections to give Aristide an overwhelming majority of seats in the
                  two-chamber parliament.

                  Aristide, who won 92 percent of the vote in the November poll, became Haiti's
                  first democratically elected leader a decade ago after he spearheaded a
                  grass-roots movement. The former Roman Catholic priest had his term cut short
                  when a military coup toppled him in 1991. A U.S.-led invasion returned him to
                  power three years later.

                  He succeeds his ally Rene Preval, who took over the presidency in 1996 when
                  Aristide's first term expired. Haiti's constitution barred him from a second
                  consecutive term.

                      Copyright 2001 Reuters.