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Haitian Police Re-establish Control Towns Taken Over By Militants - 2004-02-11

Police in Haiti say they have regained control of three towns taken over by armed militants opposed to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Police officials said Tuesday they had solidified their control over the town of St. Marc, about 70 kilometers north of the capital Port-au Prince, and also took control of Grand-Goave and Dondon.

Last Thursday militants seized the Haiti's fourth largest city Gonaives. The uprising then spread to several other towns and cities and left more than 40 people dead.

The State Department also issued a statement warning U.S. citizens to leave Haiti if they can do so safely.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Tuesday that a political solution to the ongoing crisis will involve reforms in the way Haiti is run. A senior State Department official later said the United States is not calling on the Haitian leader to step down.

The militants are calling on Mr. Aristide to step down, as has the political opposition -- which is distancing itself from the armed uprising.

The Haitian president says he will serve out his term, which runs until 2006.

U.N. officials are warning the Caribbean nation could be headed for a humanitarian crisis if the violence does not end soon.

Western countries cut most economic aid to Haiti over the government's handling of legislative elections in 2000.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.