Image: Duvalier at press conference
Hector Retamal  /  AFP - Getty Images
Jean Claude Duvalier speaks at a press conference Friday at a rented home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
msnbc.com news services
updated 1/21/2011 7:09:15 PM ET 2011-01-22T00:09:15

In his most extensive public statement since his surprise return, former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier on Friday said it was the devastating earthquake last year that brought him back to Haiti.

In a brief speech at a rented guest house, he said he wants to help with Haiti's reconstruction and called for "national reconciliation" as well as a "rapid resolution to the political crisis."

He added that he feels "profound sadness" for anyone harmed by his regime.

Duvalier said he was "impressed by the welcome I have received ... especially from the crowd of young people who don't know me."

Apart from a vague reference to helping "to rebuild the country," he failed to detail any specific causes or endeavors, however.

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Although it was billed as a long-awaited first news conference, Duvalier took no questions from reporters at Friday's gathering. A crowd of about 100 supporters on hand for the event sang "Duvalier, the country is yours, do whatever you want," to a song punctuated by beating drums.

Human rights groups accuse Duvalier of plundering state coffers and of continuing the reign of terror of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who died in 1971.

In addition to his remarks about "victims" of the bygone era when he ruled Haiti like his personal fiefdom, Duvalier voiced sympathy for many supporters who he said had been targeted by lynch mobs when he fled in the face of a popular uprising in 1986.

"Thousands were assassinated cowardly, burned, grilled, burned with tires,' he said. He did not elaborate, but urged an end to political bloodletting in a land that has suffered an unenviable list of woes since a slave revolt threw off French rule more than 200 years ago.

"When you make sure that the bell of national reconciliation resounds in all hearts ... and in each district, neighborhood and home, then we will rapidly reach the day where all of Haiti's children, men and women, in the country and in the diaspora, will be able to march hand in hand without exclusion and to participate together in the rebirth of Haiti," Duvalier said.

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On Thursday it seemed Duvalier might once again leave Haiti.

Duvalier, who faces a court investigation in Haiti, had a plane ticket to leave the country in the morning along with his entourage. But as the day wore on it became clear the ex-"president for life," who is 59 and showing signs of ailing health, wasn't going anywhere.

The reasons for his prolonged stay remain as murky as his motivation for coming back in the first place, but advisers and confidants cite two primary motivations: the lack of a valid passport and the ongoing court investigation against him on allegations of corruption and human-rights abuses from his reign.

As his scheduled flight took off he was still in the international-style hotel in Petionville, where he had stayed in a standard room. After a group lunch on its covered patio restaurant his girlfriend, Veronique Roy, walked to a waiting car at the hotel's main door to draw off most of the press while he was shepherded to a separate car behind the compound on a concrete loading dock.

He ended up in a private home.

Story: Is need for cash behind Duvalier's return?

The court cases followed too, with investigating Judge Carves Jean and Haiti's chief prosecutor, Auguste Aristidas, among his first visitors there, Radio Metropole reported.

Defense attorney Reynold Georges told reporters earlier in the day that he couldn't speculate how long the ex-dictator would stay in Haiti, but that it would take at least two weeks to resolve the legal cases filed against him.

"He will have to answer that question himself but for now, we're here," Georges said.

Asked if Duvalier had been invited to Haiti by anyone in the government, the attorney said not to his knowledge. "It's his country. He doesn't need an invitation."

WorldBlog: Money questions follow Duvalier

Duvalier assumed power in 1971 at age 19 on the death of his notorious father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. They presided over one of the darkest chapters in Haitian history, a period when a secret police force known as the Tonton Macoute tortured and killed opponents.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Baby Doc still in Haiti; Tunisia's president warned not to return

  1. Closed captioning of: Baby Doc still in Haiti; Tunisia's president warned not to return

    >>> news about the former dictator who came back this week after 25 years away in compile. jean-claude duvalier, known as " baby doc " still not clear why he came back. he's facing possible charges for embezzlement and brutality but his lawyer said while he is free to leave the country, he plans to stay there indefinitely.

Photos: A year after quake, Haiti still rebuilding

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  1. A Haitian woman prays with a Bible in her hand during ceremonies to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2011.The quake flattened much of the capital Port-au-Prince. (Kena Betancur / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Haitians hold hands during a ceremony at St. Christophe, where thousands of victims of the 2010 earthquake are buried, in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 11. Haiti began two days of remembrance ceremonies in honor of the nearly quarter million people who died in an earthquake. (Hector Retamal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Haiti President Rene Preval holds a wreath of flowers at a mass grave site at Titanyen, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, on Jan. 11. (Jorge Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Haitian workers celebrate after the inauguration of the reconstructed Hyppolite Iron Market in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 11. The historic trading center was originally constructed in the 1890s and has been rebuilt this year after a fire leveled it shortly after the earthquake. (Jorge Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A woman walks past an earthquake-damaged building on Jan. 11 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on the eve of the first anniversary of the earthquake. (Paul Chiasson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Martina Raymond, 5, center, stands in front of her family tent with neighbors Revdania Henry, 4, left, and Henderson Henry, 2, in a makeshift camp at the Petionville golf club on Jan. 11 in Port-au-Prince. According to UNICEF, more than half of the 4 million children in Haiti still do not attend school. In addition to educational difficulties, Haiti's children also suffer from poor access to basic water, health care and sanitation. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. An aerial view of a tent city in a Port-au-Prince on Jan. 10. (Thony Belizaire / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A woman walks at a mass grave site at Tituyan, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 11. (Jorge Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Residents stand near an abandoned airplane in the middle of La Piste camp on January 11 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The camp is located on a former military airport and houses approximately 50,000 Haitians displaced by the earthquake. The one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people will be marked on January 12. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Soccer players from Haiti's Zaryen team (in blue) and the national amputee team fight for the ball during a friendly match at the national stadium in Port-au-Prince on Jan.10. Sprinting on their crutches at breakneck speed, the young soccer players who lost legs in Haiti's earthquake last year project a symbol of hope and resilience in a land where so much is broken. (Kena Betancur / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Presidential candidate Jude Celestin, center, gestures to supporters during a campaign rally in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Jan 10. An Organization of American States international monitoring team will recommend on Monday to President Rene Preval that Haiti's government-backed candidate Jude Celestin be eliminated from a presidential runoff election in favor of Michel Martelly, a popular musician who finished a close third in the contested official results, according to a copy of a report obtained by the Associated Press. (Ramon Espinosa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Students practice a lesson at L'ecole Nationale Filles de Marie (Daughters of Mary National School) near the end of the school day on Jan. 10, 2011 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Catholic school collapsed during the earthquake in 2010, killing 16 nuns, but no students died because they had left for the day. The school has been partially rebuilt and houses 600 students. According to UNICEF, more than half of four million Haitian children still do not attend school. Approximately 5,000 schools were damaged by the earthquake and rebuilding has been crippled by the clearing of rubble and land issues. In addition to educational difficulties, Haiti's children also suffer from inequitable access to basic water, health care and sanitation. Jan. 12 is the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A Haitian evangelical parishioner looks up during a mass to remember earthquake victims at national stadium in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 9. Haiti will this week mark the first anniversary of the earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and destroyed much of capital Port-au-Prince. (Jorge Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Achebelle Debora St. Til, 6, dances at the Festival of Hope, a rally led by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, at a soccer stadium in downtown Port-au-Prince on Jan. 9. (Allison Shelley / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A boy plays in a refuse-clogged canal in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 9. When the ground shook Haiti a year ago, toppling homes like cards and killing some 200,000 people, world leaders promised quick action to ease the human tragedy and rebuild the country. A year on, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country is still reeling from the earthquake, and the international community's capacity to deliver and sustain aid effectively is being sorely tested. (Jorge Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Haitians stay in a tent erected in a destroyed house in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 9. (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Orich Florestal, 24, left, and Rosemond Altidon, 22, stand on the edge of their partially destroyed apartment on Jan. 9. (Allison Shelley / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A woman prays during services in front of the destroyed Port-au-Prince Cathedral on Jan. 9. Haitians gather for services outside the destroyed cathedral every Sunday. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. People walk on a street in downtown Port-au-Prince on Jan. 9. (Jorge Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. People displaced by the massive 2010 earthquake live in temporary shelters put up by Samaritan's Purse, a charity, on Jan. 8 in Cabaret, Haiti. Hundreds of thousands of people still live in temporary shelters. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The Presidential Palace is still in ruins as displaced people live in tents in a park across the street almost one year after the massive earthquake on Jan. 8 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Haitians wash clothes and hang them to dry on rebar remnants of a building destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Parishioners from St. Louis King of France Catholic Church dedicate a cross and a memorial put up in memory of the tens of thousands of people killed in the massive earthquake and buried in the mass grave at Titanyen, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Velune Noel, 24, lies with her cholera-infected 12-month-old son Peterson Sharmont, on a cot at a Samaritan's Purse cholera treatment center in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 8. (Allison Shelley / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A Haitian man builds a wooden house Jan. 8 next to houses destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Reconstruction has barely begun in Haiti a year after its catastrophic earthquake, a leading international charity said on Wednesday in a report sharply critical of a recovery commission led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. People play soccer at the site of earthquake-damaged houses in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 7. (Ramon Espinosa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Haitians work on rebuilding an iron market building destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in downtown Port-au-Prince. (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A man removes debris from the January 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 6, 2011. (Kena Betancur / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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