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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 20:25 GMT
Regional rift deepens over Haiti
Mr Aristide and his wife in Jamaica
Mr Aristide maintains he was ousted in a US "kidnapping"
Both Venezuela and Jamaica have refused to recognise the new Haiti government.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he would grant refuge to ousted Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide who is now being hosted by Jamaica.

Haiti's new prime minister suspended ties with Jamaica in protest at the decision to allow Mr Aristide in.

The moves also threaten to create new rifts between the countries and the US, which criticised Jamaica's sheltering of Mr Aristide.

The US withdrew its support of Mr Aristide as violent unrest swept through Haiti last month and he went into exile, travelling to the Central African Republic.

[Mr Aristide's arrival in Jamaica is] certainly not helpful to advancing democracy and stability in Haiti
Scott McClellan,
White House spokesman
Mr Aristide accuses the US of "kidnapping" him to allow what he calls a coup and his arrival back in the Caribbean region after just two weeks has raised concerns and some anger.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said of Mr Aristide's rapid return: "That's certainly not helpful to advancing democracy and stability in Haiti."

Mr Chavez, who is himself accusing the US of fomenting the opposition to his rule in Venezuela, said he supported Mr Aristide's claim to be the rightful leader of Haiti and would refuse to recognise the government of new Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.

Haiti's Caribbean neighbour, Jamaica, also said it would not recognise Mr Latortue's authority, at least until after a regional summit of the Caribbean Community scheduled for next week.

Mr Latortue is attempting to form a cabinet to help put together a transitional government uniting both pro and anti-Aristide figures.

But he is having trouble bringing the two sides together.

'Commitment needed'

For his part, Mr Aristide told the Washington Post newspaper that he hoped his supporters in Haiti would find comfort in his proximity.

"I do believe many Haitians who are poor or suffering, or in hiding, think that if I am closer physically, it's better for them instead of being far away," he said.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the outside world must remain committed to Haiti if it is to get back on its feet.

"Haiti clearly is unable to sort itself out, and the effect of leaving it alone would be continued or worsening chaos," he said.


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