The Washington Post
Thursday, March 25, 2004; Page A20

Haitian Cabinet Weighs Disarming Rebels

By Stevenson Jacobs
Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 24 -- Haiti's interim cabinet, meeting for the first time Wednesday, discussed the urgent need to disarm gunmen in a nation terrorized by rebels, street gangs and escaped convicts despite thousands of U.S.-led peacekeepers.

Haitian police are among those accused of fueling the turmoil, and a report Wednesday said that five officers have been detained on suspicion of killing five supporters of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party.

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights said that according to relatives of the victims, the officers rounded up and killed the men, ages 17 to 24, over the weekend. The officers were detained without charges on Monday, but no charges had been filed.

Miguel August, a top aide to the acting prime minister, Gerard Latortue, said a top government priority is to work with American and French troops to disarm militants.

Auguste said officials were considering new training and education programs to help integrate impoverished militants into society. A rebel uprising helped push Aristide from power Feb. 29.

Rebels, for their part, are pressing the interim government to reinstate the army.

Residents in northern Haiti, meanwhile, are relying on an alliance of rebels, police and foreign peacekeepers to maintain a shaky truce. Guerrillas outnumber and outgun police in Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city.

About 3,300 troops from the United States, France, Chile and Canada are in Haiti as peacekeepers.

© 2004