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Aristide leaves Africa for a visit to Jamaica

By Associated Press
Published March 15, 2004

BANGUI, Central African Republic - Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide flew out of the Central African Republic today for Jamaica, returning to the Caribbean over the objections of Haitian and U.S. officials.

Aristide left Bangui's international airport on a chartered Gulfstream jet carrying a five-member delegation of U.S. and Jamaican officials who arrived Sunday to retrieve him.

Aristide's expected arrival in Jamaica, scheduled later today, has increased tensions in Haiti, where his followers plan more protests to demand his return.

The U.S. and Jamaican officials were delayed for an hour while Central African President Francois Bozize decided whether to allow Aristide to leave.

Shortly after 1 a.m., Central African protocol director Stanislas Mussa-Kembe said Aristide was free to leave, said Amy Goodman of Radio Pacifica's Democracy Now! program, who accompanied the delegation on the plane.

Bozize gave Aristide and his wife gifts including a picture made of hundreds of butterfly wings.

The United States and France had denied Aristide's claim that he was being held prisoner in the Central African Republic, where he was flown on a U.S.-chartered aircraft on Feb. 29 amid an armed rebellion.

Aristide said he believed Bozize had to consult with the three countries that had organized his temporary asylum: the United States, France and Gabon.

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