African Union Condemns Aristide's Ouster

The African Union has condemned the ouster of exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (search), saying he was removed from power unconstitutionally, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Now in exile in the Central African Republic (search), Aristide insists the United States abducted him and forced him to leave his troubled Caribbean nation amid a weekslong insurgency. The United States has dismissed the allegations.

The 53-member AU, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa, said the way Aristide "was removed set a dangerous precedent for duly elected persons."

It added that it wished "no action be taken to legitimize the rebel forces," according to a statement published in the Daily Monitor.

Also Tuesday, Aristide's Miami-based attorney said he asked the United States to investigate his client's ouster.

Ira Kurzban claimed the United States was behind Aristide's Feb. 29 ouster, allegations U.S. officials have frequently denied.

"Because they were kidnapped, by officials of the United States government, a claim has been filed," Kurzban said at a news conference in Miami's Little Haiti (search).

A U.S. State Department official dismissed Kurzban's allegations, saying Aristide quit his office and fled on his own volition as his government collapsed.

The AU said it also supported calls by the 15-nation Caribbean Community, known as CARICOM, for an investigation under the auspices of the United Nations to clarify the circumstances leading to his "relinquishing the presidency."

"The African Union has decided to undertake immediate consultation with both CARICOM and eventually the United Nations in order to discuss the conditions for a quick return to constitutional democracy," the statement said.

It also said the AU would accept Aristide being granted asylum in Africa.

AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare met Aristide in the Central African Republic on Tuesday and declined to say if the African body was supporting Aristide.

"It isn't about support for one person. It's a principle," Konare said. "If these changes do not take a democratic path, none of the problems will be resolved."

Chaos has swept Haiti since Aristide's ouster, sparking a frenzy of looting and violence. At least 130 people were killed in the rebellion; reprisal killings since Aristide's ouster have left at least 300 dead.

Aristide arrived in Bangui on a flight arranged by the United States on March 1 and has been staying in an apartment in the presidential palace since then.

About 95 percent of Haitians are descendants of African slaves brought to the Caribbean nation by French colonialists.