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Haiti Senators Begin Work Stoppage

February 17, 2001

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Five senators aligned with Haiti’s new president began a work stoppage Friday in a move aimed at bringing political reconciliation to the impoverished country.

But the opposition quickly rejected the move Friday as a bluff, and insisted that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide call new general elections in 2003.

Grouped in a 15-party alliance, the opposition has refused to recognize the legitimacy of Aristide’s government and named a provisional one, headed by Gerard Gourgue.

``The gesture is a pure bluff,″ said Gourgue, a former justice minister. ``Aristide hasn’t proved he wants to hold genuine negotiations.″

Aristide was elected by 92 percent of the vote in November elections, boycotted by the main opposition parties, which alleged that May legislative and local balloting was rigged to give 10 Senate seats to Aristide’s Lavalas Family Party candidates.

The five Lavalas senators who suspended their work said they did not intend to resign, and that their measure was only temporary.

In a joint statement, they said their gesture was meant as a ``sacrifice″ to signal that Lavalas was serious about reconciliation.

``The contested May 21 elections are at the heart of the crisis,″ one of the five senators, Jean Joazil, said in a separate statement. The work stoppage is a signal ``to the opposition to tell them to continue exploring the road to peace.″

Millions of dollars of foreign aid to Haiti _ which depends on donor assistance for 90 percent of its budget _ has been suspended because of the political standoff.

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