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CARICOM Proposal Aims to End Haiti's Political Crisis

Leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community have unveiled a series of proposals they say could end Haiti's political crisis. The CARICOM leaders say there is a real danger of violence escalating in Haiti.

CARICOM leaders meeting in the Bahamas said Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide should dismantle armed gangs of his supporters, allow protesters to gather peacefully and work with the opposition to appoint a new prime minister who would organize new elections. At the two-day closed door meeting in the Bahamas the CARICOM heads also called on Mr. Aristide to release people arrested in anti-government protests and to respect freedom of the press.

No Haitian government representative attended the meeting. Opposition leaders who did said they will not accept any proposals that allow Mr. Aristide to stay in power until his term expires in two years.

Opposition lawmakers and a growing coalition of students, business leaders and journalists say Mr. Aristide should step down because he has done nothing to alleviate poverty and is allowing members of his government to harass and intimidate government opponents. Mr. Aristide and his supporters deny the allegations.

Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson who led the Bahamas talks says he is concerned that opposing positions in Haiti have hardened to the point where the potential for violence and instability is elevated.

Earlier this month U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was very disturbed by the situation in Haiti and said he urged both Mr. Aristide and the opposition to seriously examine a proposal by Haiti's Catholic bishops to mediate the crisis.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie is expected to travel to Port-au-Prince soon to discuss the Caricom proposals with Haitian government officials.