March 7, 1999
Parties sign pact that could end political stalemate

                  PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- In a breakthrough agreement, President
                  Rene Preval and six opposition parties signed an accord which may lead
                  Haiti out of its nearly two-year-long political impasse, politicians said

                  "This agreement will permit the formation of a new government and the
                  formation of a provisional electoral council," said former capital mayor Evans
                  Paul, in an interview.

                  Paul, spokesman for the National Front for Change and Democracy, a
                  coalition of center-left parties, is a member of the Space for Agreement, a
                  group of six political parties which has been negotiating off and on with
                  Preval for a month.

                  Robert Manuel, national security undersecretary, signed on behalf of Preval.

                  The agreement was reached Saturday, three days after the United Nations
                  Security Council urged Haitians to overcome their differences and set up a
                  credible provisional electoral council which would organize free and early

                  The agreement stipulated that a commission, composed of representatives of
                  the three branches of government, would work out a way to fill the
                  institutional vacuum created when Preval shut down Parliament Jan. 11.

                  The new government and nine-member electoral council will be composed
                  of honest and trustworthy members capable of obtaining a national
                  consensus, Paul said.

                  "But none of our parties will obtain government Cabinet posts," said Serge
                  Gilles, leader of the socialist Revolutionary National Progressive party, who
                  also signed the agreement.

                  One possible weakness in the agreement was the withdrawal from
                  negotiations of the Struggling People's Organization, the former majority
                  party in Parliament. The group withdrew on Tuesday, the day after one of its
                  members, Sen. Jean-Yvon Toussaint, was assassinated.

                  Police arrested a suspect two days later, but the leader of the party, Gerard
                  Pierre-Charles, said his party would not return to the negotiating table until
                  "full light has been cast on the crime."

                  Pierre-Charles also warned, before the agreement was reached, that it
                  would "lack credibility without our support."

                  Still, the agreement raises hopes for the first time in months that Haiti may
                  find a way out of a political impasse that has held up millions of dollars in
                  foreign aid, left the government barely functioning and raised fears that the
                  fledgling democracy would be replaced by a new dictatorship.

                  Preval had been accused by opponents of wanting to establish a dictatorship
                  after he shut down parliament, claiming members' terms had expired, and
                  pledged to form a new government by decree.

                  Haiti has been without a fully effective government since June 1997, when
                  then-Premier Rosny Smarth resigned, accusing Preval of complicity in
                  elections allegedly rigged in favor of candidates endorsed by former
                  President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Preval's predecessor and mentor.

                  Mired in a power struggle with Preval, lawmakers blocked three of Preval's
                  nominees for premier.

                  Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.