African Leader May Extend Aristide's Exile

The president of the Central African Republic (search) said Sunday he will decide soon whether the exiled Jean-Bertrand Aristide (search) can leave to return to the Caribbean, Aristide's lawyer said.

A delegation of African-American and Jamaican officials arrived in the African country on a chartered jet to escort Aristide to temporary asylum in Jamaica.

They delegation met with Central African President Joseph Bozize (search), said Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! radio and television program, who accompanied the group.

Bozize said he would tell them within an hour whether Aristide could leave, Goodman said.

Aristide had claimed he was forced from power by the United States and was being held prisoner at Bozize's presidential palace. But those allegations were denied by the United States and France, the former colonizer of Central African Republic and Haiti, which said Aristide was a free man.

In recent days, U.S. officials have criticized Jamaica for offering to host Aristide, saying the prospect has raised tensions in Haiti. Aristide left Haiti Feb. 29 under pressure from a monthlong rebellion.