Haiti president meets with opposition amid unrest

Haiti president meets with opposition amid unrest

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti President Michel Martelly met Wednesday with opposition leaders in a bid to stabilize the politically fractious country as pressure mounted on him to appoint an interim prime minister.

The meetings are Martelly's latest response to the recommendations of an independent commission he established to end a stalemate over delayed legislative elections. Among the recommendations was that former prime minister Laurent Lamothe should resign, which he did early Sunday following days of violent protests in which at least one person was killed.

"All I have to say is that the meeting went well," Martelly told reporters briefly as Port-au-Prince hotel where the meeting was held. "We agreed to continue the discussion."

Opposition leaders said they discussed how Martelly could implement the recommendations, which include renewing the membership of the electoral council, and freeing several people the opposition considers political prisoners.

Martelly "must satisfy the recommendations," said Rosemond Pradel, general secretary of the opposition Fusion party.

Two brothers who spent 17 months in prison after accusing the presidential family of corruption were released on Wednesday afternoon.

Martelly's administration also is drafting a list of candidates for an interim prime minister to steer the troubled country through political unrest.

"We need a new government as soon as possible," Senate President Simon Desras told The Associated Press Wednesday in an interview. "I think it's a complex and politically turbulent moment in Haiti."

Desras said that while his name is apparently on the list of candidates for interim prime minister, he doesn't know if he'll seek the position, but "I'm always ready to serve." The longtime senator also told the AP he may seek the presidency.

Lamothe told the AP earlier this week he doesn't plan to seek the presidency.

Haiti faces an uncertain political future in upcoming months, with the terms of the current Senate expiring on Jan. 12, exactly five years after a devastating earthquake struck the nation of 10 million people that is still trying to recover.

Desras stressed that the current parliament should stay put until a new one is appointed, noting that legislative approval is required before a new prime minister can be named.

"We have to do our job in order to pacify the population that is hungry, that is jobless," he said.

Martelly, who is to leave office in 2016, can sign a decree allowing Haiti to hold elections in the first half of the year. A presidential election is currently scheduled for later next year.

Haiti also is waiting for long-delayed legislative elections to be held. Martelly's administration was supposed to call elections in 2011 for a majority of Senate seats, the entire Chamber of Deputies and local offices. But both he and Lamothe have blamed legislators for blocking a vote that would lead to approval of an electoral law.


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. AP reporter Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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