July 14, 2001

OAS head mediates talks in Haiti

                 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- The Organization of American States
                 chief mediated a second day of talks Saturday between Haiti's ruling
                 party and the opposition, seeking an agreement on new elections to end a
                 political crisis that is crippling the economy.

                 The OAS has said that if the negotiations in Port-au-Prince succeed, it will help
                 free hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid suspended after flawed general
                 elections last year.

                 In Friday's talks, mediated by OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria, the sides
                 only discussed security to avert violence during elections. They decided to talk
                 about which races should be rerun during Saturday's talks.

                 The two sides wanted to build trust by tackling "less difficult points first,"
                 explained Sen. Yvon Neptune of the ruling Lavalas Family Party.

                 A previous round of talks broke down on July 3, when President Jean
                 Bertrand-Aristide's Lavalas party and the opposition failed to agree on which of
                 last year's contested races should be rerun. Both sides said the other was asking
                 for unacceptable concessions.

                 Gaviria is scheduled to leave Monday. He arrived Thursday on his third visit in
                 three weeks to mediate talks.

                 Although Gaviria said he had "moderate expectations" an agreement would be
                 reached, few share his optimism. Both sides entered negotiations with the same
                 positions that forced the last stalemate.

                 Lavalas swept more than 80 percent of some 7,000 elected posts last year. The
                 15-party Convergence opposition alliance said the elections were rigged to favor
                 Aristide's party.

                 Aristide won his second, non-consecutive term in November elections
                 boycotted by opposition parties.

                 Convergence has agreed to accept the validity of Aristide's victory and Lavalas
                 wins for one-third of the 27-seat Senate, but wants a rerun for all other local
                 and legislative seats.

                 Lavalas has repeatedly rejected that proposal, saying it would be like accepting a
                 coup toppling most of the elected government.

                   Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.