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US Criticizes Aristide's Claims that He is Still Rightful Haitian Leader - 2004-03-08


The Bush administration is making clear its displeasure over assertions by former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that he is still the Caribbean country's rightful leader. Mr. Aristide said from exile in the Central African Republic Monday that he remains Haiti's elected president and that he was ousted in a coup orchestrated by the United States and France.

Administration officials say Mr. Aristide stepped down and went into exile with U.S. assistance on his own free will, and they are bristling at renewed suggestions from the former Haitian leader that he was forced from power.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that when he left the country February 29, Mr. Aristide said he was acting in the best interests of the Haitian people to avoid bloodshed. He said if the former leader is sincere, he should let the political transition in his country go forward.

"Progress is being made in Haiti," he said. "If Mr. Aristide really wants to serve his country, he really has to, we think, let his nation get on with the future and not try to stir up the past again."

Mr. Boucher said whether or not Mr. Aristide has a future in Haiti will be a matter for the Haitian people to decide "somewhere down the road."

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