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Haiti: Attorney Picks Up Passport For Ex-Leader Aristide

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Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CBS4) – Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide may be another step closer to returning to his homeland.

A government spokeswoman says Haiti has prepared a diplomatic passport for Aristide and his South Florida attorney Ira Kurzban picked it up late Tuesday.

It is not yet known when or if Aristide intends to return to Haiti.

The former Catholic priest was Haiti’s first democratically elected president. He was ousted in a violent rebellion in 2004 and lives in exile in South Africa but remains popular in Haiti.

The news comes at a critical time for Haiti, with continuing uncertainty over the presidential election, due to go into a second round in March.

On Monday, protesters in Port-au-Prince demanded President Rene Preval leave office immediately. Preval’s term was scheduled to end Monday but he declared he would stay in office for three more months because the second round of the presidential election was delayed until the end of March.

Last week, election officials ruled that the second and deciding round of Haiti’s presidential election would be contended by the former First Lady Mirlande Manigat and popular singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, edging out the government backed candidate Jude Celestin.

Campaigning for the second round, originally slated for January, is set to begin Feb. 17. The final count — the naming of Haiti’s next president — is not foreseen until April 16.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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