February 6, 2001

Haiti talks break down one day before inauguration

                  PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Talks between Haiti's opposition and
                  President-elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party broke down Tuesday, and the
                  opposition immediately announced its own alternative president, setting up a
                  struggle for power one day before Aristide's inauguration.

                  The 15-party opposition alliance Convergence announced former presidential
                  candidate Gerard Gourgue as the country's provisional president.

                  One of the Convergence leaders, Evans Paul, called for the people "to rise up"
                  and peacefully demonstrate their rejection of the president in front of the National
                  Palace on Wednesday, where he is to give his inaugural address there at noon.

                  Convergence refuses to recognize Aristide's legitimacy as president, saying his
                  party won legislative and local elections last year through fraud. The opposition
                  boycotted the presidential vote.

                  The talks were held with the stated purpose of finding common ground, and the
                  two parties had set a deadline of midnight Monday to reach an agreement. But
                  the talks were extended into the early morning, and then they failed, according to
                  those who were there.

                  Aristide's Lavalas Family party and the opposition alliance blamed each other for
                  the breakdown, with mutual accusations of intransigence.

                  Gourgue, a 75-year-old lawyer and human rights activist, was minister of justice
                  in the ruling junta that followed the ouster of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in
                  1986. He was a presidential candidate in the 1987 elections that were aborted by
                  the army.

                  The selection of Gourgue (pronounced GOORG) as provisional president was
                  revealed to The Associated Press by Hubert Deronceray, a leading member of
                  Convergence. The Cabinet members in the opposition's parallel government have
                  yet to be appointed.

                  The negotiations between the opposition and Aristide's party began Saturday
                  night with the signature of a protocol and continued Sunday and Monday in the
                  presence of foreign diplomats.

                  Aristide was re-elected president on November 26, handily defeating his six
                  little-known opponents. His Lavalas Family party also won more than 80 percent
                  of local and parliamentary seats in a series of elections last year.

                  The OAS said 10 Senate seats won by Aristide candidates should have gone to a
                  second round vote, and some countries threatened to withhold or rechannel aid
                  through non-governmental agencies if the government did not revise the results.

                  "The respect of democratic principles has not yet been re-established in Haiti,"
                  the European Union said in a statement on January 29, when it decided to block
                  $49 million in aid to Haiti. Some $17.7 million, intended to help cover the
                  country's budget deficit, also was suspended.

                  Members of U.S. President George W. Bush's Republican Party have called
                  Aristide's election as president undemocratic. But U.S. ambassador Brian Dean
                  Curran said Monday that "the formation of a provisional government does not
                  advance prospects for dialogue or a solution of the political crisis."

                  The Lavalas Family position was expressed in a letter Aristide wrote to former
                  U.S. President Bill Clinton in December.

                  Aristide offered to rectify the election results, include opposition figures in his
                  government, and appoint a new provisional electoral council.

                  The opposition rejected Aristide's offers, saying last year's elections should be
                  nullified and new elections should be held.

                  In a proposal, Convergence offered Aristide one seat on a three-member
                  presidential council. An opposition premier would rule by decree, and general
                  elections would be held by 2003.

                  "We want real democracy -- not a piece of the government," said Convergence
                  delegate Mischa Gaillard.

                  "We want a compromise," said Jonas Petit, a Lavalas Family delegate to the
                  talks. "Unfortunately, Convergence wants to wipe the slate clean."

                  Aristide first won the presidency in a landslide electoral victory in 1990. The
                  army ousted him in September 1991, and a U.S. military invasion three years
                  later restored him to power.

                  Constitutionally barred from running for a consecutive five-year term, Aristide
                  stepped down in 1996 and handed power to his chosen successor, Rene Preval.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.