Haiti: Candidates dismiss fears over Aristide

Haiti's two presidential candidates have dismissed concerns that the apparently imminent return of the exiled former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, would disrupt the election, despite a warning from the US State Department that he could be a destabilising presence.

Michel Martelly, a pop singer known as "Sweet Micky", told reporters that he did not think Mr Aristide would influence the vote, although he would prefer that the former president wait "two or three days" and postpone his arrival until after the election.

"He is welcome to come back like Jean-Claude Duvalier did," said Mr Martelly, referring to the former dictator who made a surprise reappearance in Haiti in January. "I hope his return doesn't create instability for the elections."

Mirlande Manigat, a university administrator and former first lady, expressed no misgivings about the return of Mr Aristide, who has repeatedly said during his exile in South Africa that he wants to return home as a private citizen and work as an educator. Ms Manigat seemed even to encourage him.

"President Aristide is welcome to come back and help me with education," she said.

Both candidates have been Aristide opponents in the past. Now, both stress his right to return as a Haitian citizen under the constitution.

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