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Paris to host Haiti peace talks

PARIS, Feb 25 (AFP) – Talks between French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and representatives of the Haitian government and opposition should take place in Paris Thursday or Friday, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The announcement came after politicians opposed to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide rejected an international peace plan which would have allowed the president to stay in power till 2006 in return for a severe curtailment of his powers.

De Villepin was expected to meet the two delegations separately. The talks will not include representatives of the armed rebels who have seized around a half of the country in the last weeks, a spokesman said.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who spoke with de Villepin Tuesday, “supported the French offer to organize a meeting in Paris and hopes the parties will take advantage of the opportunity,” a US official said.

Officials at the French foreign ministry said there was a growing acceptance that Aristide’s days in power were numbered. “The question we have to ask is how soon does he go,” said one diplomat on condition of anonymity.

France has offered to contribute to a civilian peece-keeping force in Haiti, but only if there is first a political agreement between the opposing forces.

Diplomats said the scenario to be feared was blood-letting on a large scale in the capital Port-au-Prince between rebel forces and militias loyal to Aristide.


                                                              Subject: France news