Aristide can have new passport, Haiti says

Agence France Presse reports that Haiti’s government said it was ready to issue a new passport to former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which would allow him to return after almost seven years in exile in South Africa.

“The government will give assurances that as soon as it receives such a request, it will be swiftly granted,” the information ministry said in a statement.

Aristide, who fled the Caribbean country in 2004, formally requested earlier that Haitian authorities issue him a diplomatic passport, and provide guarantees for his safety.

“It is my understanding that the Council of Ministers has agreed to issue a diplomatic passport to president Aristide befitting his position as a former president of the republic,” his lawyer Ira Kurzban told AFP.

“I kindly request that the government of the Republic of Haiti initiate dialogue with the government of the Republic of South Africa to ensure President Aristide’s immediate return.”

He confirmed Aristide was still in South Africa amid mounting rumors the former leader was already in Cuba waiting to return home.

Haiti is embroiled in a deepening political crisis over flawed November presidential elections, which international monitors concluded were tainted by fraud and irregularities.

Aristide, who was Haiti’s first democratically elected leader but was forced to flee a popular revolt following two stints as president, has said he wants to return to help his countrymen, as the Americas’ poorest nation struggles to recover from last year’s earthquake.

A former priest, Aristide has long maintained he was forced to step down under pressure from the United States and France.

The final results of November’s first round of presidential elections are due to be released on Wednesday, which could see the ruling party’s candidate Jude Celestin dropped from the run-off now due on March 20.

But the political situation has been further complicated by the return of ousted dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who ended some two decades in exile earlier this month

For the original report go to http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gb_Hk33pNLMIyJttDW38FEif9x1g?docId=CNG.ddc0305146893ec9e9e6796d743e6af7.571

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