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Aristide Opponents March, While Loyalist Prepare to Rally in Haiti - 2004-03-07


Hundreds of people celebrating the forced departure of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide have marched through Port-au Prince, protected by heavily armed U.S. and French peacekeeping troops.

Supporters of Mr. Aristide are also planning rallies in Port-au-Prince Sunday.

The head of the U.S. led international peacekeeping mission in Haiti, U.S. Marine Colonel Mark Garganus, says his forces are doing everything possible to prevent violence during the protests.

Meanwhile, the Central African Republic says it will make an "important announcement" later Sunday concerning Mr. Aristide, who has been staying in the capital, Bangui, since leaving Haiti.

Mr. Aristide fled one week ago, as rebel forces were closing in on the capital. He had been under pressure from political opponents inside the country, as well as foreign governments, to step down to end bloodshed in the Caribbean island nation.

A seven-member "council of wise men" appointed in Haiti on Friday is reported to be close to selecting an interim government leader to replace Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, an Aristide ally. Haitian officials say a new prime minister could be named as soon as Monday.

The new head of government is to lead the country until new elections can be held.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.