PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti's new prime minister vowed to unite his country after a rebellion that pushed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (search) from power and criticized Jamaica's decision to host the exiled leader's return.
U.S. Marines, on patrol in a pro-Aristide neighborhood late Friday, killed two gunmen who opened fire on them, Marine Staff Sgt. Timothy Edwards (search) said Saturday. U.S. troops have killed at least six Haitians after coming under attack or in efforts to prevent bloodshed.
The Marines also have engaged in nightly gunbattles with looters. On Friday, they guarded the National Palace as Latortue took the oath of office in front of 200 dignitaries and members of Haiti's former opposition.
"I"m a man of dialogue," the prime minister said. "I give you the assurance that I will work and listen to you all as much as possible."
Latortue said he would begin visiting cities across Haiti, starting with his hometown of Gonaives, where the bloody rebellion that ousted Aristide began Feb. 5.
Aristide fled Feb. 29 to exile in the Central African Republic (search), pressured by the United States and France and rebels moving in on the capital. At least 300 people have been killed during the rebellion and in reprisal violence since then.
Latortue warned that Aristide's plan to return to nearby Jamaica early next week was causing tension in the Haitian capital; he told Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson that hosting Aristide would be seen as "an unfriendly act."
Nonetheless, a U.S. and Jamaican delegation was scheduled to fly out of Miami on Saturday for Africa to escort Aristide back to the Caribbean. Delegates include U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters and a representative of Patterson, African-American activist Randall Robinson told The Associated Press. Robinson said he also would be on the plane.
Aristide claims he is still Haiti's legitimate leader. Latortue denied that Friday, dampening speculation that the trip to Jamaica might lead to negotiations for the former president's return.
Latortue is a U.N. career officer and business consultant who arrived in Haiti on Wednesday after years in Florida. A U.S.-backed council earlier this week selected him to replace former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, an Aristide appointee.
Latortue said earlier Friday he wants to hold legislative elections in six to eight months.
"This is an occasion of hope for all Haitians," he said. "Together, we will form a responsible government that respects its institutions, and I will see that every dollar given to development projects will be well spent."
Latortue spoke with Patterson by telephone, and said the Jamaican leader told him Aristide "had no other place to go."
Patterson said Aristide would visit with his wife, Mildred, for eight to 10 weeks to be reunited with their two daughters, who were sent to New York City for their safety. Foreign Minister K.D. Knight said Aristide had been told not to use Jamaica as a staging post for any attempt to be reinstated in Haiti.
Patterson, chairman of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, has also invited Latortue to visit Jamaica this weekend for talks on Haiti. Latortue said if he goes, his trip will not overlap with Aristide's arrival.
Aristide claims he was abducted and forced from office by the United States. U.S. officials say Aristide asked for help and that they saved his life by arranging his departure aboard a U.S.-chartered aircraft during a bloody rebellion.
A Caribbean summit in Jamaica last week called for a U.N. investigation into Aristide's departure, a call echoed Wednesday by the 53-nation African Union. From Africa, Aristide has urged his followers to offer "peaceful resistance" to the U.S. "occupation."
Latortue reassured politicians from Aristide's Lavalas Family that they would be part of the transitional government. "We talked, and at times strongly disagreed," the prime minister said. "But we all agreed on the need for national reconciliation."
Rebel leader Guy Philippe said Friday he planned to travel around Haiti for several months "to know what my people want, to see how I can help." Philippe, who fled to the Dominican Republic amid charges he was plotting a coup in 2000, stressed he did not plan to run for office.
To promote security, Latortue wants his Cabinet to include retired army Chief of Staff Herard Abraham, who supports recreating Haiti's disgraced and disbanded army, a key rebel demand.