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Texas executive fights to run for Haiti presidency

US citizen isn't eligible, panel says

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- A wealthy US businessman whose bid to run for president of Haiti was rejected by electoral authorities pledged yesterday to fight for a spot on the ballot in his native country's first election since the February 2004 ouster of Jean- Bertrand Aristide.

Dumarsais Simeus, owner of one of the largest black-owned businesses in the United States, said he asked the Provisional Electoral Council to reverse its decision to strike his name from the list of presidential candidates in the Nov. 20 election and will do ''everything possible," including filing a legal challenge if necessary, to participate in the race.

''This election, without us being allowed to participate as a presidential candidate, will have no legitimacy whatsoever," Simeus, the son of illiterate Haitian rice farmers, said at a news conference in the capital.

The electoral council late Friday issued a list of 32 approved presidential candidates -- a diverse group that includes former government officials from across the political spectrum and a leader of the rebellion that forced President Aristide out of office and into exile in South Africa.

Simeus, the 65-year-old owner of a Texas-based food services company, was rejected because he has US citizenship, said Rosemond Pradel, the council's secretary-general.

The businessman, who has lived outside his native country for more than 40 years, said he has always maintained links to Haiti and his citizenship should not be an issue.

''I was born in Haiti. I have Haitian nationality. This is not negotiable. Period."

Garry Lisade, an attorney for the businessman, said the electoral council misinterpreted Haitian election law, which requires that any objection to a candidacy be lodged within 72 hours of the Sept. 15 filing deadline. Simeus had already received confirmation of the ''provisional acceptance" of his candidacy, the campaign said.

If the electoral council does not reverse its decision, Simeus said he would appeal to the Supreme Court.

Simeus, who has said he hopes to use his business skills to help the economy of the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, said he asked the council for an explanation of its decision but has not received a response. In any case, he said, he had no intention of abandoning his bid for the presidency.

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