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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Haiti's Military President Makes Way for Aristide

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Haiti's military-backed president, Emile Jonassaint, has effectively stepped down, a lawyer for exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said Tuesday.

"He's not going to work today," Aristide aide Ira Kurzban said. He said Jonassaint would not return to the presidential palace and that other ministers in the government of resigned military leader Raoul Cedras would be out of their offices by the end of the week.

Jonassaint, a former Haitian Supreme Court justice, was appointed by Cedras in May in an attempt to lend legitimacy to the regime that took power in a 1991 coup against Aristide. But Western governments refused to recognise the appointment.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager said Jonassaint had met Monday with Ambassador William Swing and Lieutenant General Hugh Shelton, head of the U.S. forces. The two Americans requested and received Jonassaint's pledge of co-operation for a smooth transition, Schrager said.

After Cedras' resignation, ministers loyal to Aristide came out of hiding and prepared to take office Tuesday.

"We can now roll up our sleeves and begin to rebuild democracy in the spirit of reconciliation,'' Aristide's commerce minister, Louis Dejoie II, said.

Robert Malval, Aristide's figurehead prime minister, was to assume his duties with other ministers in the ousted government, according to a source who demanded anonymity.

Appointed by Aristide after the 1991 coup, Malval never wielded power nor worked at government offices for security reasons.

Military-backed thugs prevented his finance and information ministers from working in government offices and assassins killed his justice minister.

President Bill Clinton said in a televised speech Monday night that Aristide would return to Haiti on Saturday.

(Reuters, AP)