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Barbados and St. Vincent row over Aristides

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GONSALVES... says he is being strongly misrepresented

June 17 Bridgetown Barbados - The Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, has denied ever calling on Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign as Haiti's president, following comments by his Barbadian counterpart.

Gonsalves, however, admits having suggested to Aristide that he consider "reducing" his then remaining two years in office to one, during which time free and fair elections must be held.

ARTHUR... suggested Gonsalves may have urged Aristide to resign

His comment followed a claim in the Barbados parliament on Tuesday by prime minister Owen Arthur that the Vincentian premier was in "a strong position" to say which Caricom head of government had told Aristide that he should resign "for the good of Haiti and the Caribbean".

The Arthur-Gonsalves cross-fire over Aristide first emerged at the last Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico at which Caricom leaders had a caucus session with Aristide on the political crisis in Haiti, prior to his ousting as president on February 29, 2004.

Gonsalves, in a telephone interview on Wednesday from Dominica, where he is participating in the 41st meeting of Heads of Government of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, said he was being "wrongfully misrepresented" by Arthur.

He added that Arthur had also "strangely accused the whole of Caricom of abandoning Haiti".

Gonsalves was expected to send a letter to Arthur yesterday to formally object to claims made by the Barbados prime minister on both the reported 'resignation' suggestion made to Aristide and also the continuing illegal shipments to Barbados of marijuana originating from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Vincentian PM has accused his Barbadian counterpart of being "dead wrong" and "off the wall" on the flow of illegal drugs.

In Mexico, Gonsalves said he told Aristide that since the expiration of the life of the Haitian parliament had led to a situation where he was then governing by presidential decree in the face of spreading violence and threat to the rule of law, he should consider restricting his term in office to just one more year.

He also suggested, he said, that Aristide use the time to promote dialogue with the relevant stakeholders for implementation of Caricom's proposed 'Action Plan' to resolve the governance crisis in Haiti.

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