Aristide appeals for peace in Haiti
U.S. Marines say they killed gunman in protest
BANGUI, Central African Republic (CNN) -- In his first news conference since leaving office, exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide appealed for peace Monday in his strife-ridden country, saying he remained its democratically elected leader who was "politically abducted" by "the U.S. military and other foreign military."
Aristide spoke a day after protests against him turned deadly in the streets of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
Seated with his wife, Mildred Trouillot Aristide, the former president appeared to speak openly.
"In order for peace to reign, one must speak the truth, and that is why I have spoken of a political abduction," Aristide said. " ... Far from my own country, but in deep communion with all Haitians, including Haitians abroad, I continue to launch an appeal for peaceful resistance."
Aristide answered reporters' questions after his remarks, telling them he intended to stay in the Central African Republic for the time being.
The Aristide's have been in an apartment on the grounds of the president's mansion in that country since March 1 when they were whisked away from Port-au-Prince.
"I was never a prisoner here," he said. "I have been extremely welcomed here. However on the 28th of February, I was a prisoner."
Using the words "peace" or "peaceful" 30 times in his five-minute address, Aristide said his "political abduction" had breached the peace and disrupted "the constitutional order."
"Before the elections of the year 2000 which led me for the second time to the National Palace in Haiti, I had talked about peace," Aristide said. "And throughout in the National Palace, throughout my tenure, I talked about peace. And today I continue to talk about peace."
Shortly after his departure from Haiti, Aristide telephoned two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, telling the lawmakers that the United States had abducted him.
U.S. officials have repeatedly dismissed Aristide's claims and did so again Monday.
"Mr. Aristide has resigned his office and has left the country," deputy White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters aboard Air Force One. "And now the Haitian people are involved with grasping democracy and moving forward on an interim government. And that's where the focus should be right now. And any comments that would stir up more division are not helpful, as the Haitian people move toward a greater democracy."
The United States has said Aristide left of his own volition after they told him U.S. authorities could not guarantee the security of his family or his countrymen should the rebels enter the capital.
On Monday, Aristide thanked the Caribbean Community, Central African Republic, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and supporters in the United States and elsewhere, expressing his wish that "one day the constitutional order might be restored in Haiti by the democratically elected president and that remains me."
But the "political abduction ... paved the way" for Haiti's occupation by foreign militaries, he said.
While noting that those militaries are in Haiti ostensibly to protect peace, Aristide said he "can't forget what has been done by the U.S. military and other foreign military who kidnapped me on the 28th of February."
Foreign soldiers had come down on the side of armed rebels that he described as "terrorists and drug dealers" and "thugs and murderers."
"I would like to launch an appeal to the international community to ensure that the rule of law be kept and the immediate arrest of these drug deals and others who are planning the murder of many Haitians and others who continue to preach violence where what we need is peace," Aristide said.
"If we wish to maintain peace, then we cannot accept that impunity be provided to these international criminals and drug dealers."
Weekend violence kills 10
Meanwhile, U.S. Marines killed a gunman who opened fire Sunday on protesters as they were celebrating the end of Aristide's rule, Marine spokesman Col. Mark Gurganus said.
In a news conference Monday, Gurganus was pressed on whether the man the Marines killed was in fact a gunman. He insisted he was, and that the man was shooting at the Marines.
The return fire Sunday from outside the presidential palace was the first known gunfire by U.S. Marines in the country since they were sent a week ago to try to help bring stability following Aristide's departure.
Hospital officials and the Red Cross said 10 people were killed in the violence Sunday. Among them were two police officers, four civilians, and Spanish journalist Ricardo Ortega, the hospitals said.
At least 59 people were treated for wounds, including a few journalists.
Tens of thousands took part in the demonstration.
There were tense moments when some protesters confronted Aristide supporters. U.S. and French military, escorting the protesters, worked to keep the two sides apart.
Gunfire erupted around 2:30 p.m. from the Bel-Air neighborhood, several blocks from the palace -- at a time when the U.S. and French troops were no longer visible in that immediate area, but many demonstrators were still there.
The area is home to some Aristide supporters. Although gunmen were not identified, military officials believe they were Aristide
CNN's Jeff Koinange in the Central African Republic, Lucia Newman in Haiti and Barbara Starr in Washington contributed to this report.