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Aristide could return to Haiti after 2-year exile

Ousted Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide said Tuesday he was willing to return home after two years in exile.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said Tuesday he was willing to return home after two years in exile.

In an interview with South African television, Aristide stopped short of setting a date, saying he would decide on his return after consulting with Haitian President-elect Rene Preval, the South African government, the United Nations and other countries.

Aristide has been a “guest” of the South African government since he was ousted amid an armed uprising in February 2004.

The interview was the first time Aristide has spoken in public since Preval won Feb. 7 elections in Haiti.

The United States, which Aristide accuses of orchestrating a coup to force his departure, says an Aristide return would be potentially destabilizing.

Aristide nurtured Preval’s career but the two men have subsequently fallen out.

Aristide indicated in the interview he would take a role outside politics, concentrating on promoting education in Haiti.

Aristide, a Roman Catholic slum priest whose fiery rhetoric urged Haitians to liberate themselves from decades of oppression, became Haiti’s first democratically elected president in 1990.

He was ousted within months by a military coup and returned by a U.S. invasion in 1994. He stepped down to honor a constitution that does not allow two consecutive presidential terms.

Preval, an agronomist, was elected in 1994 but seen as warming the presidential seat until Aristide returned to power after 1999 elections.

Aristide fled Haiti in February 2004 amid rising protests and armed opponents threatening to kill him as they approached the capital.