February 1, 2004

Aristide announces framework for Haiti talks

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNN) --Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned
to Port-au-Prince Saturday night after a daylong meeting with international leaders in
an effort to resolve Haiti's latest political crisis.

Aristide said at a news conference Saturday night that the group established a
framework for continued negotiations with a March deadline for concrete

Such actions would include a temporary electoral council that would allow for
new parliamentary elections by midsummer, Aristide said.

Aristide met in Kingston, Jamaica, with the leaders of several Caribbean
nations and representatives from the Organization of American States, the
European Union, Canada and the United States.

Aristide described Saturday's meetings as fruitful and positive, and called on his
political opponents to work with him in finding solutions to the country's

The situation in Haiti began deteriorating in early January when celebrations
marking the 200th anniversary of the country's independence from France were
marred by violent protests.

The U.S. State Department said that while some Haitian police tried to protect
demonstrators, others collaborated with armed gangs to attack protesters, steal
cars, attack radio stations, vandalize businesses and harass people.

The Bush administration has urged the government to end suppression, punish
those responsible for violence and undertake political reforms called for by the
OAS to restore the rule of law.

Aristide announced in early January his intention to organize legislative elections
sometime over the next six months.

The Haitian leader also said an advisory council would be appointed to help
him set government decrees until a new parliament is elected.

Referring to Haiti's increasingly vocal opposition, Aristide said that while the
opposition has the democratic right to demonstrate on the streets, it must
respect the law and do so without violence.

He said the opposition must consult with police when planning its street protests
to avoid violence.

Opposition leader Andy Apaid told CNN his group, Societe Civile, one of two
main opposition organizations, was not invited to attend Saturday's meeting but
that he would not have attended the meeting anyway.

Apaid said he did not want to use the same forum as Aristide to voice his

Apaid said he has been working to oust Aristide for the past three years and
accused Aristide of using an "occult criminal machine to violate the human rights
of the Haitian people."

Apaid said the opposition needs to express itself freely and without intimidation,
but that the police were resorting to tactics that undermined demonstrations by
creating a climate of fear.

He said that climate of fear was causing otherwise willing opposition
demonstrators to stay home.

Aristide insisted that as the democratically elected president of Haiti he is
committed to working with the opposition to resolve the political impasse.

As a result of violence, the U.S. Embassy has closed several times and
restricted the movement of its personnel. International organizations have
reduced their staffs in the country.

The U.S. State Department has urged Americans citizens to delay travel to

CNN's Ingrid Arnesen and Harris Whitbeck contributed to this story.