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Leader of Haitian Senate arrested

Standoff ends; riots continue grip on city

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Gunfire erupted in a slum teeming with loyalists of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide yesterday, sending people scattering through the trash-strewn streets following days of political clashes that have left at least 14 dead.

Residents said men fired guns into the air, stole food from market vendors, and burned tires in the streets in the slum, La Saline.

A day earlier, police arrested Haiti's Senate president and two other pro-Aristide politicians following a six-hour standoff at a radio station. Justice Minister Bernard Gousse said the three were suspected of being ''intellectual authors" of the violence that erupted Thursday during demonstrations demanding Aristide's return.

The politicians, who insisted they were innocent, were led out in handcuffs from the offices of Radio Carabes Saturday night after a judge entered to negotiate their surrender.

Gousse said police found illegal weapons in one of their cars: an Uzi submachine gun and a T65 assault rifle. ''They're people who are barbaric and violent," he said.

Pro-Aristide groups criticized the arrests, saying police didn't have a warrant and had planted the weapons.

Heavy gunfire rang out Saturday night and yesterday in parts of Port-au-Prince. No one was reported killed, but some streets remained blocked with overturned wooden market stalls.

Tensions have erupted as the impoverished country struggles to recover from floods caused two weeks ago by Tropical Storm Jeanne, which killed more than 1,550 and left some 900 missing. Most are presumed dead.

In the hard-hit northwestern city of Gonaives yesterday, residents found two semiconscious, emaciated men and brought them to a clinic run by Argentine troops. Doctors said it appeared the two hadn't eaten in several days and had psychological trauma, one because he lost relatives in the floods. The other, 40-year-old Jacques Agelus Faustin, was found collapsed under a mango tree.

''We all thought he was dead," said Soupon Jean-Paul, the friend who found him.

Tommy Thompson, US Health and Human Services secretary, also visited Gonaives yesterday, meeting with officials and stopping at the clinic, where UN peacekeepers have treated hundreds of the wounded.

''There's no question we have to figure out how to rebuild Gonaives," Thompson said. That would involve the creation of jobs through public works projects, he added.

Last week, President Bush asked Congress for $50 million for storm-hit Caribbean countries, with about half earmarked for Haiti. ''Help is on the way," Thompson said before returning to Port-au-Prince.

Workers using shovels have begun cleaning up the contaminated, dried mud that cakes the streets of Gonaives.

Meanwhile, Port-au-Prince's General Hospital said it admitted two men with gunshot wounds yesterday. Augustin Peristil, 25, said he didn't see who shot him when gunfire erupted Saturday night in La Saline.

Residents said at least five men were killed Friday by gunmen outside the home of an anti-Aristide community leader in the slum Village de Dieu.

Pro-Aristide groups say police and gangs opposing the Lavalas Family party had opened fire on Aristide supporters, killing several people.

A 15-year-old boy was among two people police shot to death Friday during a pro-Aristide march, according to the independent group Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Others reported dead included a person shot at another demonstration Friday and two alleged pro-Aristide gangsters killed by police Thursday.

The headless bodies of three policemen turned up Friday, police said. They, with a fourth policeman, were believed killed in clashes Thursday, police said.

Aristide, in exile in South Africa, has accused US agents of ousting him Feb. 29 amid a bloody rebellion, an allegation the US government denies.

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