Former Haitian president set to quit South African exile

08:40, March 18, 2011      

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Exiled former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is expected to leave South Africa on Thursday night after living in the country for seven years, the South African Press Association (SAPA) reported.

His departure will be earlier than that requested by the United States and the United Nations, who asked that he wait until after a March 20 Haitian presidential run-off poll.

On Thursday the South African ministry of international relations said Aristide will address the media at Johannesburg's Lanseria airport at 8.45 pm South African time(6.45 pm GMT).

Minister in the South African Presidency Collins Chabane earlier told reporters Aristide had failed to give the government any indication of when he planned to return to the Caribbean island nation.

He said that despite U.S. warnings on the timing of the move, South Africa would not press the former leader to wait until after Sunday's polls.

The South African government could not hold Aristide "hostage", he said.

He said Aristide was given a passport by the government of Haiti.

"We can't be held responsible for whether he should go or not go."

The U.S. State Department has cautioned that Aristide's return seemed calculated to influence Sunday's vote.

Both U.S. President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called South African President Jacob Zuma to ask that he persuade Aristide to wait until after the election.

Aristide has been living in South Africa since 2004, when he was ousted in a coup. He blamed the United States for orchestrating his ouster.

He has been receiving a salary from the South African government which has also provided staff for him and his family living in a residence in Pretoria.

Source: Xinhua
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