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Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 19:34 GMT
Haiti's Aristide defiant in exile
Jean-Bertrand Aristide accompanied by a soldier to a news conference in Central African Republic
Aristide faced mounting civil unrest and opposition calls to go
Haiti's exiled president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has insisted he remains the elected head of his country.

In his first public appearance since he left for exile in Africa, Mr Aristide called for "peaceful resistance" and the restoration of democracy in Haiti.

His remarks prompted a swift rebuke from the US. It warned Mr Aristide not to make trouble from his new home.

"Any comments that would stir up more division are not helpful," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.

Haiti saw renewed disturbances on Monday, as crowds looted a warehouse complex next to the airport serving the capital Port-au-Prince.

Passing cars were being stopped and occupants harassed; armed men were said to be among the crowd.

In another development on Monday, Haiti's supreme court chief Boniface Alexandre was formally installed as interim president in place of Mr Aristide, who left on 29 February.

'Gracious welcome'

"I am the elected president and I remain the elected president," Mr Aristide said at his news conference in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.

"I am pleading for the restoration of democracy."

Looters make off with items from a complex near the airport in Port-au-Prince
An industrial estate was looted on Monday

His wife, Mildred, was also present but did not speak to reporters.

Mr Aristide told the BBC he was being well treated in the CAR. "Fortunately here they are gracious with us. They are really treating us the right way."

In the interview with the World at One programme, Mr Aristide also repeated claims that he had in effect been forcibly removed from Haiti by the US.

"In one word it was a kidnapping... You can say coup d'etat."

The US - which helped restore Mr Aristide to power in 1994 after he was ousted - has strenuously rejected his claims.


On Sunday, six people were killed in the worst day of violence in Haiti since Mr Aristide left. Gunmen suspected to be Aristide loyalists have been blamed for five of the deaths, while US troops said they killed one gunman.

Witnesses said pro-Aristide gunmen known as Chimeres had come out of the slums around the square and opened fire from buildings or the top of a hill.

Their target was a crowd of thousands who had gathered in Port-au-Prince to celebrate Mr Aristide's downfall.

Shots rang out and panic struck as crowds were packed into the city's central square were dancing to the music of a disc jockey banned under Mr Aristide.

US and French troops had been at the march, in an effort to prevent clashes between the two groups.

A Spanish television journalist, Ricardo Ortega, was among those killed.


The 2,500 French and US peacekeepers - who have arrived in Haiti in recent days - had restored order in central Port-au-Prince but have avoided outlying slums where Mr Aristide has many supporters.

Major Richard Crusan of the US marines told the BBC World Service that they did respond during the unrest to secure a building thought to have contained gunmen.

"It was pretty chaotic," he told the World Today programme, saying that some semblance of order was soon restored.

"Our main concern was the stability and the security of the area. We're here to assist and support the Haitian national police in getting back to an ability to control Haiti right now."

The BBC's Daniel Lak
"Fear and uncertainty still reign in the Haitian capital"

Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide
"In one word it was a kidnapping"



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