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Haiti’s New Prime Minister Says Elections May Be Two Years Away

By Lydia Polgreen

The New York Times -- PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

Newly appointed Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said Thursday that it may take as long as two years to prepare for national elections. This would put a new elected government beyond the 2005 timeline envisioned in the U.S.-backed transition plan to help Haiti recover after the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

“We really want to give an equal chance to all political parties, to all candidates,” said Latortue, in his first interview since returning to Haiti on Wednesday after decades of living in United States and elsewhere. “We want not to go fast, but to take time.”

Jamaica’s foreign minister announced Thursday that Aristide, who left Haiti under U.S. pressure last month, would soon visit the country, Reuters reported. The news sparked speculation that Jamaica might offer him asylum, thereby resolving the question of what to do with the former president. He has been staying in the Central African Republic as diplomats scramble to find a permanent home for Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president. He left Haiti on Feb. 29, as armed rebels menaced the capital and the United States told him it could not ensure his safety.

Aristide, who flew out of Haiti on a Pentagon jet at dawn, now insists that he was kidnapped and forced from power in an American-backed coup d’etat, a charge the United States denies.

Latortue said finding a home for Aristide was a crucial task that must be completed to begin healing the country. He said he planned to build a broadly based government focused on solving Haiti’s profound social, economic and security problems.

“This government has no political attachment,” Latortue said. “We want to make a government of technocrats, a government of people from no political parties, of people who are independent minded. We want the transition to be as neutral as possible.”