Haiti: U.S. Lifts 13-Year Arms Embargo
3 hours ago
By AMY BRACKEN, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haitian officials said Tuesday that the United States has lifted a 13-year arms embargo on the island nation, while U.N. peacekeepers and police faced sporadic violence in areas dominated by supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The lifting of the arms embargo could not immediately be confirmed. The U.S. State Department said Friday it would consider individual requests from the Haitian government for weapons purchases and a spokeswoman in Washington said Tuesday she had no additional comment.
Meanwhile, gunshots rang out in the Bel Air slum as U.N. troops and police patrolled the narrow streets. An Associated Press Television News reporter saw a group of about two dozen men firing into the air as they walked through the slum, sending residents scrambling for cover. One 14-year-old boy was reportedly hit by a stray bullet and taken to the hospital.
At least 55 people have been killed in street clashes since Aristide supporters took to the streets Sept. 30 to demand his return. The violence has strained more than 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers in a Brazilian-led force that was supposed to have 8,000 members.
The interim government ordered an unspecified number of weapons for Haiti's 3,000-strong police force after the United States lifted the arms embargo last week, Justice Minister Bernard Gousse said. U.S. officials have refused to comment on the order.
The U.S. State Department said Friday that "restrictions on arms exports" to Haiti remained in place but promised to "consider requests from the interim government."
The United States imposed the embargo in 1991 after a military coup first ousted Aristide. U.S. troops restored Aristide _ Haiti's first democratically elected leader _ in 1994 but maintained the arms embargo.
Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue denounced the embargo in September, saying it was crippling efforts to restore stability months after the three-week rebellion that ousted Aristide in February.
The government ordered rebels and Aristide supporters to disarm by Sept. 15, but did little to enforce the deadline.
Aristide backers say the police started the recent bloodshed, while the government blames pro-Aristide militants. Police reportedly killed two protesters on Sept. 30 and the bodies of three beheaded police were found the next day.
Port-au-Prince's General Hospital has received at least 100 gunshot victims since the clashes erupted, compared to 114 for all of September, said director Albert Camille Archange.
Nine more victims, including four police officers, arrived since Monday, according to hospital records. Relatives scurried across bloody and muddy floors carrying bags of saline solution, which they had to buy at a nearby pharmacy because the hospital was out of such supplies.
Monteau David carried his injured 12-year-old neighbor, trying to find a bed or chair to set him down until he could be treated for a gunshot wound in his ankle. He claimed police opened fire as they drove through his downtown neighborhood.
"We all ran, but he wasn't quick enough," David said of the 12-year-old boy.
Although sporadic violence continued, nearly all employees at Port-au-Prince's port returned to work this week, freeing up shipments of food and other aid to some 200,000 homeless flood victims in the northwestern city of Gonaives. Most employees had been too scared to leave home amid the bloodshed.
Some 113 food containers from the World Food Program were gradually being transported to a warehouse in the capital, said Anne Poulsen, a spokeswoman for the organization. Since the violence erupted, the World Food Program had only been able to get 22 containers out of the port, she said.
Associated Press writer Michael Norton contributed to this report from Puerto Rico.
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