Page last updated at 07:28 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Haitians demand Aristide's return

Supporters of ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide march in Port-au-Prince
The peaceful protests were monitored by police and UN peacekeepers

Hundreds of demonstrators have marched through two of Haiti's main cities, demanding the return of exiled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"We want our leader to come back to his country. He's the only one who cares about our situation," supporters said.

They urged President Rene Preval to keep his promise, made during his election campaign in 2006, to allow Mr Aristide to return to Haiti.

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

However, the US has warned that Mr Aristide's return could destabilise the country.

Political prisoners

The demonstrations, in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the country's second largest city, Cap-Haitien, came on the 18th anniversary of Mr Aristide's first election as president.

The peaceful protests, which were monitored by police and UN peacekeepers, ended with calls for the president to let Mr Aristide return to Haiti.

Mr Aristide, who maintains he was forced to step down under pressure from the US and France, has said he would shun politics and serve Haiti as a citizen on his return.

The former president was ousted in a military coup in 1991 and was returned to power in 1994, after US military intervention.

His second term in office was marred by tension over the 2000 elections, and was cut short by an armed uprising four years later.

Mr Preval won the presidential poll in February 2006 to become the first elected leader since Mr Aristide.

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