updated 3/22/2004 8:00:04 PM ET 2004-03-23T01:00:04

Nigeria has agreed to a request by Caribbean leaders to grant former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide temporary asylum, the nation’s presidency said Monday.

The request came from the 15-nation Caribbean Community, known as Caricom, Nigerian presidential spokeswoman Remi Oyo said in a statement late Monday.

The statement did not say whether Aristide had requested — or even agreed to — asylum in Nigeria.

Aristide fled Haiti on Feb. 29 as rebels were closing in on the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. He arrived in Central African Republic on March 1 and stayed there with his wife and two bodyguards until March 15, when he flew to Jamaica to be with his two daughters.

Caricom, “under the leadership” of Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, “requested Nigeria to consider giving former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti 'a staging post' for a few weeks until his movement to another destination,” said the presidential statement, issued in the capital, Abuja.

“After receiving the Caricom request, Nigeria undertook widespread consultations with African leaders, the leadership of the African Union, the U.S. government and other concerned parties,” the statement said. “Nigeria has agreed to grant the request.”

Oyo declined to comment further when reached by telephone. Other Nigerian officials were unavailable for immediate comment.

Interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, the United States and others have criticized Jamaica for accepting Aristide, saying his presence in the Caribbean would raise tensions in Haiti. Jamaica is about 100 miles from Haiti.

A spokesman for Latortue, Minister Robert Ulysse, welcomed Nigeria’s offer.

“We didn’t want any destabilization so its good news if he can find a place” outside the region, he said.

There was no immediate comment from Patterson’s office in Kingston or from officials of the Caribbean Community based in Georgetown, Guyana.

It would not be the first time Nigeria granted asylum to an ousted leader. Former Liberian President Charles Taylor traded in his seaside palace for a squat lodge in the Nigerian jungle city of Calabar after he resigned last August as rebels shelled Monrovia, the Liberian capital.

Taylor’s one-time Liberian rival, former warlord Prince Johnson, was given refuge in the commercial capital of Lagos in the late 1990s, and another rebel faction leader, Roosevelt Johnson, took asylum in the central city of Jos.

Ousted Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, who left his nation starving and in anarchy when he was forced from power in 1991, spent the final years of his life in Lagos, where he died in 1995.

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