[R-G] What is Aristide's destination?
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Feb 29 21:10:36 MST 2004
) Aristide's Destination Remains Unknown
By COLIN JAMES
.c The Associated Press
ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) - Jean-Bertrand Aristide's plane stopped for
food and fuel on the Caribbean island of Antigua on Sunday before
departing for South Africa, government and airport officials said.
A senior Caribbean Community official said Aristide told him during the
refueling stop he was bound for South Africa. But a South African
official said there had been no recent contact with Aristide nor had an
offer of asylum been made.
Panama's president, who did offer Aristide asylum, said her government
was told by the United States that Aristide was heading to an
unidentified African nation.
Aristide's plane was in Antigua for about an hour to refuel and receive
some food, officials said on condition of anonymity. No one came off the
jetliner and no one boarded it. Someone on the plane received the food
at the aircraft's door.
An Antiguan radio report said Aristide was accompanied by 15 people and
12 crew members. The report did not identify the passengers.
Several countries including Panama and Costa Rica said they would offer
exile to Aristide, who fled Haiti earlier Sunday after rebel forces
threatened to attack the capital, Port-au-Prince, unless he resigned.
``We have to look at Haiti with compassion,'' President Mireya Moscoso
told Panamanian radio. ``And if Panama could help in a given moment, we
would think about it.''
The president added, however, that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
had called Panama's foreign minister to say that Aristide was looking
for asylum in Africa.
Costa Rica offered temporary political asylum to Aristide, but Security
Secretary Rogelio Ramos said the ousted president decided to go to
``We thought it made sense given the problems in Haiti and also because
of Costa Rica's democratic tradition and respect for human rights - with
the understanding that it would be temporary,'' Ramos said.
A close adviser in Haiti said Aristide was flying to the Dominican
Republic and would seek asylum in Panama, Morocco or Taiwan. Officials
in Taiwan said there were no plans to receive Aristide, and Morocco said
he was not welcome.
Officials in French Guiana denied reports Aristide was headed their way.
``This is a false rumor,'' an official said on condition of anonymity.
``I have checked the flight plans of the different planes and we have
strictly nothing from the areas'' of Haiti or the Dominican Republic.
``There is no information'' that points to Aristide coming to the
department, the official said.
A South African official, denying reports Aristide was flying there,
said developments in Haiti ``do not bode well for democracy.''
``The South African Government has noted with serious concern
developments in Haiti, leading to the resignation of a democratically
elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide,'' said Ronnie Mamoepa, a
spokesman for South Africa's Department of Foreign Affairs.
Panama's president, who lived in exile for 10 years in the United
States, said she offered asylum because ``I know what it's like when
they kick you out of your country. You have to think about helping these
For years, Panama has offered refuge to ousted former leaders, many of
whom left office in disgrace.
If allowed into Panama, Aristide would have an unusual neighbor: Gen.
Raoul Cedras, who helped drive a military coup that pushed Aristide out
of power in 1991.
The Panamanian government granted safe haven to Cedras in 1994 at the
request of the Organization of American States, permitting Aristide's
return to power and allowing the lifting of U.N. sanctions against
In 1998, Panama rejected Haiti's request to extradite Cedras, who is
seldom seen in public.
Other who received asylum here include ex-presidents Jorge Serrano Elias
of Guatemala and Abdala Bucaram of
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