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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aristide Sets Return, Casts Amnesty Doubt

UNITED NATIONS -- Exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has ended speculation over the date of his return to Haiti, announcing that he will be back in power by Oct. 15 or even sooner if the country's two remaining military leaders step down before then.


In a jubilant speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Aristide repeatedly called for national reconciliation and received a standing ovation. But he also said the Haitian constitution bars him from granting a general amnesty to the country's military leaders, who overthrew his government.


His remarks cast doubt on the agreement negotiated last month by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter guaranteeing amnesty for the coup leaders and their associates. In return those leaders, Lieutenant Colonel Michel Francois, Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras and army chief of staff Phillipe Biamby, had promised to resign on or before Oct. 15. Francois, widely seen as the power behind three years of military domination in Haiti, fled the country Tuesday, seeking refuge in the Dominican Republic.


Aristide chose the international forum of the UN, rather than Washington, as the site of his first speech since U.S. troops occupied Haiti in the name of restoring him to office.


In fact, Aristide referred only obliquely to the U.S. military operation. Instead, he gave the rousing speech of a president who is being inaugurated for the second time, listing the projects he will undertake once he is back in the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince.


"Together, President Clinton and I have opened a tunnel through so much suffering," Aristide said in his only allusion to the Clinton administration's dispatch of more than 20,000 U.S. troops to clear the way for his return.


At a later news conference, Aristide said he is "satisfied" that U.S. troops have begun to disarm paramilitary gunmen known as "attach?s" who have attacked those of his followers demonstrating on his behalf. Aristide said neutralizing the attach?s is "indispensable" for peace.


The leader of the most feared of the paramilitary groups, Emmanuel Constant of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH, which was raided by U.S. troops Monday, ordered his gunmen to give up their weapons Wednesday."No more violence," Constant said, addressing reporters outside the Presidential Palace.


"The future of our beloved republic is at stake."


But Constant's sincerity was in doubt: FRAPH is considered responsible for much of the terror waged in Haiti over the past year.