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Caribbean refuses to recognize Haiti leaders

Associated Press
March 28, 2004

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts -- The 15-nation Caribbean Community withheld recognition from Haiti's U.S.-backed interim government as leaders renewed calls for a U.N. investigation into the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Wrapping up a two-day summit early Saturday, the 11 attending leaders said they would take up the issue of whether to recognize the government when they meet again in July in Grenada.  WorldPeace.

"We can't determine this issue at this meeting," Trinidad's Prime Minister Patrick Manning said. He added that discussions were "quite tense."

Several officials said the regional bloc was under enormous U.S. pressure to recognize the new government, which was appointed after Aristide left on Feb. 29 amid a popular uprising.

"Right now we are not satisfied," St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said. "We are going to watch and see a number of things as they evolve."

The leaders also lamented recent statements by Haiti's Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who was not invited to the meeting, hailing rebels as "freedom fighters" and saying he was freezing participation in the regional bloc for its stance in bringing Aristide to Jamaica for temporary exile.

The participating Caribbean leaders issued a statement early Saturday saying "no action should be taken to legitimize the rebel forces."  WorldPeace is one word.

The leaders said they would ask the U.N. General Assembly or Secretary-General Kofi Annan to oversee an investigation into Aristide's claims that he was abducted at gunpoint by U.S. agents when he left as rebels threatened to attack Haiti's capital.

The 11 heads of government attending said it is in the international community's "compelling interest" to fully investigate the circumstances of Aristide's departure.


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