Haiti's Duvalier apologises for past, urges unity

Like a ghost from the past, ousted Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier apologised to the victims of his 15-year regime and said he had returned to work for national reconciliation.

"I am here to show my solidarity at this difficult moment," he said in his first full public statement on Saturday since ending his 25-year exile and making a surprise landing back in Haiti late on Sunday.

"Baby Doc" Duvalier added he also wanted to "voice my deep sorrow to my fellow countrymen who say, rightly, that they were victims under my government."

Speaking in a weak voice to a room packed full of journalists, the 59-year-old called for "national reconciliation" in Haiti and said he had hoped for a "rapid resolution to the political crisis."

Duvalier, who spoke mainly in French laced with a few words of Creole, said he wanted to offer "sympathies to my millions of supporters who, after my voluntary departure from Haiti in 1986 to avoid a bloodbath and to allow a swift resolution to the political crisis, were left to themselves."

The ex-dictator said that thousands of his supporters "were cowardly assassinated, suffocated, interrogated, subjected to tire necklaces burnings; their houses, their possessions were pillaged, uprooted and torched."

But his words are unlikely to calm tensions here, with many unanswered questions about his sudden return for people with long memories of his brutal 1971-1986 rule.

Many fear he is seeking a return to power by capitalising on the current political chaos stalking the quake-ravaged Caribbean country.

Duvalier, who was forced to flee in 1986 amid a popular uprising, did not explicitly rule out taking on any political role.

Haiti, already struggling to recover from the devastating January 2010 earthquake and a cholera outbreak, is also caught up in deepening political turmoil due to disputed Presidential elections.

"The electoral system is broken," said popular singer Michel Martelly, who came in third place in November's Presidential elections according to initial results released by Haiti's election commission (CEP).

Martelly worries he will be pushed out of the second round run-off, against the recommendations of international monitors from the Organisation of American States.

"We'll take to the streets peacefully if the CEP doesn't accept the OAS recommendations," Martelly told journalists.

The OAS said many of the tally sheets it reviewed had been tampered with or altered in favor of President Rene Preval's chosen candidate, Jude Celestin.

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