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Aristide 'wants to return to Haiti'

Haitians adjusting to the sudden return of one exiled ex-president could soon have another on their hands.

As former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier held court with allies at an upscale hotel, ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide sent out a letter saying he is ready to come back from six years of South African exile "today, tomorrow, at any time".

"As far as I am concerned, I am ready," he wrote in an email distributed by supporters and posted online. "The purpose is very clear: to contribute to serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education."

Mr Aristide was ousted in 2004, leaving Haiti aboard a US plane as a small group of rebels neared the capital. His return has been a principal demand of his Fanmi Lavalas party, which has lost influence as electoral officials blocked it from participating in elections including the disputed November 28 vote now under challenge - though Mr Aristide himself has remained a widely popular figure.

He is two years younger than Mr Duvalier, the now 59-year-old ex-dictator he spoke against as a Roman Catholic priest in the La Saline slum.

Together the men represent the two main oppositional forces in Haitian politics over the last half century: stable but often brutal authoritarianism in favour of elites against charismatic populism that opponents said bordered on demagoguery.

According to the Duvalier camp the two men have never met. Their mutual presence in Haiti could cause long-simmering tensions to erupt.

Mr Aristide did not endorse a candidate in the current race and has said he would not seek office if he came back.

Instead he said in the letter that his return is necessary to help his countrymen and for his medical needs after six eye surgeries during his six years of exile.

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