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Haiti Embarks on Rebuilding Government

Five days after Haiti’s president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, resigned and fled the country under threat of a coup, a new tripartite council made up of people chosen by the government, Aristide’s political foes and foreign nations went to work.

The government selected Aristide’s Minister of Haitians Living Abroad, Leslie Voltaire; the political opposition group, Democratic Platform, chose Paul Denis, a former senator; and the international community named Adama Guindo, the United Nations’ resident coordinator.

The three are expected to choose a seven-member Council of Sages within a week to pick a new prime minister and begin the process of establishing a new government, according to Reuters.

After Aristide left Feb. 29, Haiti’s constitution determined that Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre would take his place. However, the legislature is supposed to approve him and has been largely defunct since January. It was still uncertain Friday when a formal swearing in ceremony would be held for Alexandre at the presidential palace.

Aristide’s departure followed three weeks of violent clashes between rebel groups and armed Aristide supporters that left at least 100 dead.

The killings continued despite the arrival of international troops as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission, and a pledge from rebel leader Guy Philippe on Wednesday that his forces would disarm.

An Associated Press correspondent reported seeing the bodies of four men who had been shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs laying in the streets of Gressier, just west of Port-au-Prince.

Philippe, apparently under pressure from Washington, said he would travel the country telling his fighters to disarm, but was still seen in the capital Friday, wearing jeans instead of camouflage, carrying no gun but being accompanied by armed guards.

U.S. military vehicles mounted with machine guns and missile launchers drove through the streets of Port-au-Prince, sending a message to the rebels and armed pro-Aristide militants that it was time to lay down their arms, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the number of international peacekeeping forces in Haiti continued to grow. U.S., French, Chilean and Canadian troops in the Caribbean nation number about 2,000, according to the commanders of the multinational force approved by the United Nations to restore order after days of looting and lingering violence followed Aristide’s flight.

Aristide, who fled to the Central African Republic in a U.S. government-provided jet, has said he was abducted at gunpoint by Marines.

The 15-nation Caribbean Community, South Africa and an African-American lobby in the United States are calling for an investigation.

U.S. officials strongly deny the claims. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States acted at Aristide’s request and probably saved his life, according to the AP.

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