May 18, 2000

Aristide calls for peaceful Haiti elections

                  PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide on
                  Thursday called for peaceful legislative and local elections in Haiti, hours after a
                  grenade explosion in front of election council headquarters injured several people.

                  "We must all make peace so that we can all live in peace," Aristide said in a
                  message aired on the private Radio Metropole.

                  Opposition politicians have blamed Aristide supporters for pre-election violence,
                  a claim denied by Aristide's Lavalas Family party.

                  Aristide, who remains an influential though controversial figure in this
                  impoverished Caribbean nation of 7.5 million people, has been widely criticized
                  for his silence in recent years in the face of escalating political violence.

                  Preval: 'Don't vote division'

                  Also on Thursday, President Rene Preval urged Haitians to vote for members of
                  Aristide's party in this weekend's legislative and local elections.

                  "Don't vote division, vote union, so that 2001 can be an all-out success," Preval
                  told a Flag Day assembly, using a Lavalas party slogan. He spoke in the west
                  coast town of Arcahaie.

                  Aristide -- Preval's predecessor and mentor -- is widely expected to run for
                  a second term as president in December national elections.

                  Haiti's most popular politician, he was elected president in 1990, ousted in an
                  army coup in 1991 and restored to power after a 1994 U.S.-led intervention.

                  Haiti was scheduled to hold legislative and municipal elections in November
                  1998, but the polls were put off to November 1999 and postponed several
                  more times before being set for this Sunday, with runoffs for June 25.

                  5 injured in attack

                  Aristide's call for peace came after a grenade was set off late Wednesday in front
                  of the Provisional Electoral Council, or CEP, on a busy road in the capital. Evans
                  Paul, spokesman for the opposition Espace de Concertation coalition party, said
                  the attack was "part of a strategy to discourage people from going to vote."

                  Police said shrapnel injured five people, but victims at the State University of
                  Haiti hospital said three passers-by were hurt.

                  CEP President Leon Manus on Thursday condemned the grenade attack and said
                  electoral officials were determined to go ahead with the elections.

                  'We refuse to participate'

                  Opposition candidates blocked access to election offices in Gonave Island in
                  Port-au-Prince Bay on Thursday, claiming that only Lavalas Family partisans had
                  been assigned to run voting stations.

                  "We refuse to participate in elections controlled by Aristide partisans," opposition
                  parliamentary candidate Daniel Bertrand said in a telephone interview. "Armed
                  Aristide partisans have threatened to kill us, and the police are in cahoots with

                  Police beat and jailed another parliamentary candidate, Fritzner Eliasaint, during
                  an opposition demonstration in the island town of Anse-a-Galets, Bertrand said.

                  Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis, in an address to the nation on
                  Wednesday, guaranteed police would provide full security during the elections
                  and called on all voters to cast their ballots on Sunday.

                  At least a dozen political killings have occurred since late March. Several
                  politicians, journalists, and human rights workers have gone into hiding.

                  Sunday's elections will fill several thousand empty posts nationwide including the
                  parliament, which Preval dissolved in January 1999 to end a political impasse.

                           The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.