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Haiti council chooses Gerard Latortue as interim prime minister

A US-backed advisory council has chosen Gerard Latortue, a former United Nations official and business consultant, as Haiti's new prime minister.

The decision is a step toward a transitional government and eventual elections. An official announcement was expected today, but two opposition officials confirmed yesterday that Mr Latortue, who served as foreign minister in 1988, was the final choice to replace Yvon Neptune. Mr Latortue will work with interim President Boniface Alexandre. Mr Neptune stayed in his post after Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president, fled the country on 29 February. Opponents of Mr Aristide have demanded that Mr Neptune be replaced.

Mr Aristide, however, has insisted from exile in Africa that he is still president of Haiti, saying he was removed from office by the US government. State Department officials have denied the claim.
§Haiti names new PM
by AFP
Gerard Latortue, who was once the highest ranking Haitian official in the United Nations hierarchy, has been named as Haiti's new Prime Minister by a special "council of wise men".

Mr Latortue, 69, who spent much of his career at the UN Organisation for Industrial Development, said, "I am very happy to see the trust placed in me by the council of wise men who recommended me for the post of Prime Minister".

His nomination follows the exile of ex-president Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Council member Anne-Marie Issa made the announcement outside the presidential palace, after the council told interim President Boniface Alexandre of their decision.

"This is the consensual result of long deliberations," she told Radio Vision 2000.

President Alexandre is expected to make a formal announcement on Wednesday.

Mr Latortue is a lawyer, professor and economist who was educated both in Haiti and in France.

He fled the Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier dictatorship in 1963 and when foreign minister was ousted in a military coup that ended the presidency of Leslie Manigat in 1988.

"I accept it with pleasure while recognising the complexity of the tasks that await me," Mr Latortue said.

"I want to seize the occasion given to me to rally all citizens of the country on the basis of their competence, their honesty and their integrity to participate in the construction of a new Haiti."

He called on the country to "help me to accomplish the great responsibilities that I am going to assume in a few days".

-- AFP
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