May 10, 2002

Haiti paving road toward November election

                 UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
                 said on Friday he was working hard to build bridges to his political foes and
                 hoped to hold new parliamentary elections as early as November.

                 Aristide, who became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1991, was elected to a
                 second term in November 2000 but has been locked in a tense political fight with
                 opposition parties over tainted May 2000 parliamentary elections.

                 The opposition Democratic Convergence coalition refused to take part in the 2000
                 presidential poll, charging that the parliamentary elections were tallied to give
                 Aristide's Lavalas Family party more seats than it was due.

                 Haiti, one of the world's poorest nations, has a long history of coups, political
                 unrest and violence, and the quarrel has prompted foreign donors to hold up
                 hundreds of millions of dollars in aid while waiting for it to establish solid
                 democratic credentials after decades of dictatorship.

                 Aristide told a news conference at U.N. headquarters that his administration was
                 "moving toward elections."

                 "Hopefully we may have elections by November, to renew two-thirds of the senate
                 and all the deputies," he said on the sidelines of a U.N. summit on children.

                 Should the political opposition prefer instead to hold the elections during the first six
                 months of 2003, however, "I will welcome that. I will do my best to create the
                 appropriate environment to have good elections," he said.

                 If a vote were held in early 2003 rather than this November, it would be to elect
                 local officeholders as well as senators and deputies, Aristide said.

                 As he spoke, huge crowds of rival demonstrators protested outside the U.N.
                 compound, one group opposed to Aristide and the other supporting him.

                 Aristide said he was working with the Organization of American States "to build a
                 bridge of dialogue between the government and the opposition."

                 "We cannot have democracy with one political party. We need different political
                 parties, and I am committed to do my best to help build that democracy where
                 every single Haitian has to be respected and all political parties have to be
                 respected," he said.

                    Copyright 2002 Reuters.