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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Bids Anxious Farewell to Aristide

WASHINGTON -- On the last day of his exile, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide received a warm farewell Friday at the White House. President Bill Clinton said a new era of hope is opening for Haiti with the restoration of democracy.


With Aristide standing at his side, the president said the Haitian people are "moving from fear to freedom'' now that Haiti's military leaders have left and the elected president is returning Saturday to his Caribbean homeland.


The two leaders spoke to a White House gathering of congressional leaders and others who supported Aristide's reinstatement during his three years in exile.


Aristide thanked Clinton and those who helped his cause.


He said Haitians feel hopeful and "we will be moving from misery to poverty with dignity.''


His return should enhance democracy throughout the world, Aristide said, repeating his recent pledge to say "No to violence, no to vengeance, yes to reconciliation'' when he retains control of his government after three years of military rule.


At the conclusion of the 20-minute ceremony, Clinton signed an executive order formally dismantling remaining sanctions against Haiti, effective with Aristide's return on Saturday.


Aristide has less than 16 months left on his term in office, but U.S. officials expect he will come under strong pressure from his supporters to extend his term to compensate for his three years in exile.


Clinton has said publicly that Aristide is committed to adhere to the February, 1996, departure date. But U.S. officials predict he will seek either a court ruling or a constitutional amendment to obtain an extension.


Early on, Aristide's most difficult task will be to win parliamentary confirmation for a prime minister, a goal that will be difficult to acheive unless he picks someone with broad political appeal.


Officials say he may have to wait for confirmation of his choice for prime minister until early January when parliamentary elections could give him the lower house majority he now lacks.


The officials also are concerned about the large numbers of weapons that have been hidden away by pro-military forces in Haiti. These forces have been largely dormant since the arrival of U.S. forces but that could change later on, according to the officials.


One sign of U.S. concern about security was the disclosure that the State Department has hired a private security firm to help protect Aristide. Officials felt the U.S.-trained Haitian security force was too inexperienced for what may be a difficult assignment. State Department security personnel will be assigned to Haiti to provide advice.