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Haitian Police Disperse Small Crowd of Opposition Demonstrators


Police in Haiti's capital dispersed a small crowd of opposition demonstrators on Sunday after they clashed with another small group of pro-government activists.

Several hundred students led several hundred other anti-government demonstrators down Port-au-Prince's Delmas Avenue, in the first anti-government demonstration since last Thursday, when pro-government activists violently blocked demonstrators from going ahead with a planned march in another part of town.

On Sunday demonstrators assembled peacefully, and began their march without incident. However after several hours of demonstrations, a group of students in the march broke away and clashed with supporters of President Jean Bertrand Aristide, before being dispersed by police using tear gas.

Police reported several arrests but no serious injuries.

Anti-government demonstrations in Port-au-Prince have been growing smaller in recent weeks even as anti-government unrest has spread to other parts of the country.

Armed gangs opposed to President Aristide occupy Haiti's fourth largest city Gonaives. President Aristide and his supporters say a broad coalition of business people, politicians journalists and civic activists are backing violence in Gonaives and elsewhere.

Anti-Aristide activists in Port-au-Prince deny the charge. Andre Apaid, who heads Group 184, which is leading the anti-Aristide drive in the capital says while both groups want Mr. Aristide to leave office, they have nothing to do with each other. "We are a peaceful non-violent movement. We do not want the linkage and mixture between both movements. That is very important," he said.

Mr. Apaid and his supporters say President Aristide is guilty of human rights abuses, corruption and mismanagement and should step down immediately. Mr. Aristide has rejected the charges and says he will fill out his term which ends in February 2006.

In a development that has further raised tensions in Haiti, former Haitian police chief Guy Philippe, and Louis-Jodel Champlain, a former paramilitary leader in exile in the Dominican Republic, say they will join with armed rebels in Gonaives to try and overthrow the government.

Meanwhile, Dominican President Hipolito Mejia has ordered the arrest of any Haitian who is suspected in taking part in the uprising and tries to cross into the neighboring Dominican Republic. His announcement came after Louis-Jodel Chamblain announced he was leaving exile join the uprising.

The U.N. is warning of an impending humanitarian crisis in Hiati's north if order is not restored there soon. Blocked roads are preventing food delivery supplies to nearly three-hundred thousand people. U.N. officials have chartered a ship to deliver supplies to the northern port of Cap Haitian this week, to try and avoid a serious food shortage from developing.

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