PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti's new prime minister gathered with political leaders Tuesday to form a new Cabinet as a rift deepened over Jamaica hosting ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (search), whose return to the Caribbean threatened more violent protests.
Marines and Haitian police conducted overnight patrols in the tense Belair neighborhood, an Aristide stronghold where Marines shot and killed two residents on Friday and where a Marine was shot in the arm late Sunday, the first casualty since the peacekeepers arrived.
Aristide, who has accused the United States of abducting him and forcing his departure from Haiti Feb. 29, made no political comment when he arrived Monday in Kingston, apparently bowing to Jamaica's demand that he not use the neighboring island to pursue his campaign to return to Haiti.
Aristide and his wife, Mildred, were whisked away on a helicopter to what officials said was a rural prime ministerial residence.
But Aristide indicated when he left the Central African Republic (search), another coup- and poverty-ridden country, that he had not abandoned his ambitions.
"For the time being, I'm listening to my people," he said.
That would be the roar of distress expressed most eloquently by Port-au-Prince (search) slum dwellers threatening new protests to demand his return as Haiti's democratically elected president, and who see the U.S.-led multinational force as a foreign occupation army.
Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue suspended diplomatic relations with Jamaica and Haiti's membership of the 15-member Caribbean economic bloc.
Under the chairmanship of Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, the Caribbean Community has called for an investigation into Aristide's claim that the United States forced an elected president from power. U.S. officials say they acted at Aristide's request and probably saved his life as rebels prepared to attack the Haitian capital.
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Aristide's looming presence "does not serve a useful purpose. But he's here. He's on a private visit. And he's here temporarily as a former president of Haiti."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Aristide's arrival in Jamaica was "certainly not helpful to advancing democracy and stability in Haiti."
Jamaican officials said they were allowing the Aristides a respite to reunite with their two daughters for up to 10 weeks while they decide on a permanent home in exile. Unofficially, Jamaican officials say Aristide wants to go to South Africa.
"There are people trying to destabilize the country. It may be ex-President Aristide himself who is contributing by giving money and advice," Latortue suggested.
Under a U.S.-backed plan, he was to name some Cabinet members Tuesday to help form a transitional government uniting former enemies from Aristide's Lavalas Family party and a disparate opposition coalition.
But the only names put forward as sure winners so far are anti-Aristide.
Latortue attempted to soften the blow Monday of having troops from France -- Haiti's former colonizer -- on his nation's soil in the year the world's first black republic was supposed to celebrate the first and only successful slave rebellion, with a defeat of Napoleon's army.
"I know a lot of you are wondering in the 200th year of independence why foreign troops have come to our country," Latortue said. "They didn't come to occupy us, they came to help us. We were not able to solve our problems ourselves."
He spoke at a ceremony where U.S. Marine Gen. Ronald S. Coleman took command of the peacekeepers — and warned his forces won't tolerate attacks.
"You have my word that all law-abiding Haitian citizens will be treated with respect," Coleman said. "But make no mistake, my Marines will not idly stand by while thugs and rebels kill innocent civilians."
In the downtown Belair neighborhood that is the site of Sunday night's shooting of a Marine on foot patrol, residents said Marines fired wildly after they came under attack. Several people were wounded.
Aristide is a former slum priest who has survived several assassination attempts and a successful coup. He was ousted by the military in 1991 within months of being elected on a wave of fiery rhetoric to make life better for the majority of the 8 million Haitians who live in abject poverty.
His failure to do so, and charges he used politicized police and armed civilians to attack opponents, have lost him support.
Latortue said Haiti's police had a tainted past involved in drug trafficking. Hours later, Canadian immigration officials issued a warrant for the extradition to the United States of Aristide's security chief, Oriel Jean, on charges of conspiracy to traffic drugs.
U.S. officials have accused Aristide of condoning drug trafficking. Aristide counters that there are known drug traffickers in the opposition. Haiti has become the major Caribbean transit point for cocaine shipments from producer Colombia to consumers in the United States.
With Aristide militants threatening protests that usually turn deadly, Haiti appeared set for more turmoil.