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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 July 2006, 01:44 GMT 02:44 UK
Thousands demand Aristide return
Pro-Aristide supporters in Port-au-Prince
Mr Aristide was forced into exile in 2004
Thousands of people have demonstrated in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, demanding the return of exiled former President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Supporters chanted "Aristide or death!" and "Aristide's blood is our blood!" as they marched to the National Palace on the ex-leader's 53rd birthday.

Mr Aristide was forced to flee an armed revolt in 2004 and is in South Africa.

President Rene Preval had said during this year's election campaign he would consider allowing him to return home.

However, the US has warned this could destabilise the country.

Political prisoners

Saturday's march was largely peaceful although there were some stand-offs with riot police.

Confrontation in Port-au-Prince
The protest was largely peaceful but there were some stand-offs

One of the rally's organisers, Andre Michelet, said: "We voted for Rene Preval to obtain the return of our leader."

Mr Preval won the presidential poll in February to become the first elected leader since Mr Aristide.

Demonstrator Harold Lafaliese told Associated Press news agency: "The international community doesn't want Aristide to come back, so they're pressuring Preval to keep him out."

The demonstration has added to the pressure on Mr Preval, who has also faced a resurgence of gang violence that left 20 people dead in the past week.

Saturday's protesters demanded the release of political prisoners held under the regime of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who took over after Mr Aristide fled.


SEE ALSO
New Haitian cabinet takes office
10 Jun 06 |  Americas
New Haiti president takes office
14 May 06 |  Americas
Aristide: US forced me to leave
02 Mar 04 |  Americas
Timeline: Haiti
10 Jun 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Haiti
09 Jun 06 |  Country profiles

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