January 13, 1999
Haiti president seeks one-man rule, lawmaker says

                  PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- A leader of Haiti's parliament said
                  on Wednesday the legislature would continue to function despite what he
                  called President Rene Preval's desire to seize control of the country.

                  "Unless the president makes a formal decree-- which will confirm his desire
                  for one-man rule-- I am still president of the Senate," Edgard Leblanc,
                  president of the upper house of Haiti's parliament, said.

                  "Preval wants to make sure there is no parliament," he said.

                  The Senate president met with reporters amid a feverish debate on the future
                  of the Caribbean nation's fragile democracy and in the aftermath of a
                  shooting attack on Preval's sister, Marie-Claude Preval Calvin. Calvin
                  received three gunshot wounds and her chauffeur was killed on Tuesday.

                  In a nationally televised address on Monday night, Preval said he believed
                  the terms of most members of parliament had expired and the body should
                  be disbanded. He also said he had the right to appoint his nominee for prime
                  minister by decree, without waiting for the legislature's approval.

                  Preval's speech came hours after hundreds of protesters burned tires in the
                  streets of Port-au-Prince and marched on parliament in an unsuccessful
                  attempt to keep it from opening.

                  Leblanc, who is a member of the Organisation of People in Struggle party,
                  which controls parliament, said he saw the move as an attempt by Preval to
                  assure that members of his own Lavalas Family party were elected to the

                  The Lavalas Family was founded by former President Jean Bertrand
                  Aristide, a fiery populist priest who became Haiti's first freely elected
                  president. Aristide, who was ousted in a military coup in 1991, was restored
                  to power in 1994 after the occupation of Haiti by 20,000 U.S.-led troops.

                  Several hundred U.S. troops remain posted in Haiti.

                  On Wednesday, U.S. officials expressed concern about the situation in Haiti.

                  "We note with concern the shooting of President Preval's sister," White
                  House spokesman Joe Lockhart said. "We will continue to work with the
                  parties, both through Mr. Lake (former national security adviser Anthony
                  Lake) and continuing to work with all sides there to try to break the
                  impasse, and we continue to stress the importance of the continuity of all of
                  Haiti's democratic institutions," he said.

                  Lake left Haiti on Monday after spending four days meeting with its political
                  leaders in an attempt to resolve the political crisis before parliament opened.

                  U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said: "We know ...
                  President Preval has stated he has neither the authority to extend or dissolve
                  the current parliament. And we and others in the diplomatic corps are urging
                  all parties to continue their efforts to resolve this dispute."

                  Calvin, a member of the Lavalas Family who heads the presidential
                  secretariat, was hit by three bullets when two gunmen on a motorcycle fired
                  on her car in the Haitian capital.

                  She remained in stable condition in a hospital on Wednesday.

                  It was not immediately clear whether the shooting was politically motivated.
                  But one politician said the attack might have been aimed at the driver, Jean
                  Franklin Versailles, a former security guard for Aristide.

                  Versailles' brother was shot and killed by unknown gunmen one year ago,
                  the politician said.

                  Others linked the attack to Preval's speech.

                  "It is not a coincidence that this murderous attack happened the day after the
                  speech of the president stating the end of the term of most legislative
                  officials," said Eric Cantave, a spokesman for the opposition National
                  Committee of the Congress of Democratic Movements (KONAKOM).

                   Copyright 1999 Reuters.