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AP Interview: Haitian leader could pardon Duvalier

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Associated Press

Haiti's president suggested Thursday that he might pardon former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, saying reconciliation for his nation is more important than making the man known as "Baby Doc" pay for his bloody rule.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Michel Martelly pledged to respect the independence of the judge expected to rule within days on whether Duvalier should face trial on corruption and human rights violations. Duvalier was driven into exile in 1986 and returned to Haiti a year ago.

But Martelly suggested he has little appetite for a trial that could be explosive for the Caribbean nation, recovering from decades of political turmoil and a devastating earthquake two years ago.

"My way of thinking is to create a situation where we rally everyone together and create peace and pardon people, to not forget about the past - because we need to learn from it - but to mainly think about the future," he said. "You cannot forget those who suffered in that time, but I do believe that we need that reconciliation in Haiti."

Martelly also said he will build a Haitian security force to maintain order without U.N. peacekeepers - more than 11,000 foreign military and police officers who have patrolled Haiti since 2004, and who have come under fire for allegations of sexual abuse and suspicion of being the source of a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 7,000 people and sickened a half-million.

The president refused to blame the United Nations for the problems, saying individual troops are responsible for their own misdeeds. But he said he wants to build a Haitian security force that will create jobs for 3,000-5,000 Haitian youths and help Haiti become self-sustaining.

Martelly refused to put a time frame on an exit for the peacekeepers, saying he'll need foreign cooperation to fund and train his security force.

"We are working with them to establish a calendar where they can retreat," he said. "I don't want to force the peacekeeping nations to feel like I'm pushing them out."

 


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