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Haiti Has New Prime Minister; Violence Continues - 2004-03-10

A U.S.-backed advisory panel has chosen a new prime minister for Haiti. The move comes as multi-national troops in Haiti say they will soon begin disarmament operations in Haiti.

Gerard Latortue, a former political refugee and foreign minister in Haiti is his country's new prime minister. Mr. Latortue, was chosen after five days of deliberations by the so called council of wise individuals, a panel selected to choose a new prime minister after the departure of President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Mr. Latortue, will join interim President Boniface Alexandre to select a government to run Haiti until elections can be held. Mr. Latortue is an academic who fled the regime of Francois Papa Doc Duvalier. He served as foreign minister in a government that was overthrown by a military coup in 1988. He has taught at universities and served as a senior official of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

Anne Marie Issa, one of the council members who selected Mr. Latortue says his experience will be needed for a difficult task. "He is someone who has a vision and is someone who can put everybody together," he said. "You know a uniter of the nation. Also to promote the development of the country, because that person will have a lot to do, so that is why we think that person (Latortue) is a good choice."

Multi-national troops in Haiti say they will soon begin an aggressive effort to disarm armed gangs and other groups and individuals who have been behind a wave of violence over the past several weeks. U.S. Marine Colonel Mark Garganus who heads the multi-national troop force in Haiti says the effort will depend on cooperation from the Haitian public.

"What we are requesting is that the Haitian population assist us in this, just by laying down their arms or turning them into us," he said. "We will be happy for them to turn them into the police or turn them into the multi-national force. That will greatly accelerate the promotion of stability which is again the main reason we are here."

Colonel Garganus says multi-national troops will work with the Haitian police to disarm groups and individuals behind the violence but he gave few details of how the plan will work.

A senior team of United Nations experts in Haiti will also focus on disarmament efforts as a main objective behind the U.N. authorized peacekeeping mission.

Looting and violence continues in Port-au-Prince with a warehouse and industrial district close to the Port-au-Prince airport the main target. Multi-national troop commanders say they have stepped up patrols in the area to try and bring the looting and violence under control.