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Aristide again says he was kidnapped from Haiti
Updated: 2004-03-07 09:36

Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide says his departure from his country was a "kidnapping" as heavily armed "white men" surrounded the National Palace, according to a statement released on Saturday.

"During the night of the 28th of February 2004, there was a coup d'etat. One could say that it was a geopolitical kidnapping. I can clearly say that it was terrorism disguised as diplomacy," Aristide said in the statement, a transcript of a Friday radio address "to the Haitian People and the World" delivered by cellular telephone to a California radio station.

The United States has repeatedly dismissed Aristide's contentions that he was kidnapped when he left Haiti on Feb. 29. The Bush administration blames the crisis in Haiti on Aristide, who was restored to power a decade earlier by 20,000 U.S. troops after his ouster in a military coup.

A former slum priest, Aristide lost public support during his presidency amid charges of corruption, failure to alleviate Haiti's desperate poverty and election fraud.

But he remains fiercely popular in Haiti's slums, from which tens of thousands of supporters emerged on Friday to call for his return to Haiti and denounce the United States.

Aristide said U.S. military personnel in Port-au-Prince came to the palace before dawn on Sunday and told him "the foreigners" and armed gangs leading a month-long revolt were near the capital and "already in position to open fire."

He said the Americans also said his security detail would have to fight to the death and that 25 more guards hired from the United States had been barred from coming to Haiti.

"There was going to be a bloodbath because we were already under an illegal foreign occupation which was ready to drop bodies on the ground, to spill blood, and then kidnap me dead or alive," he said.

Aristide said in the statement that he agreed to go to avoid a bloodbath, was forced to sign his letter of resignation and did not know he was going to the Central African Republic until shortly before landing there.

He urged his supporters to stand together under the Haitian constitution. "... we also know that back home there are people who understand the game, but will not give up because if they give up, instead of finding peace, we will find death."

Authorities in the Central African Republic, where Aristide is in exile, have voiced concern about Aristide's inflammatory comments about the United States since arriving in its capital Bangui.

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