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Rogue force refuses to disband

A rogue band of armed men pushing for the revival of Haiti's military are refusing to disband and leave old military bases, despite repeated orders from the government.

In a news conference at an army barracks just outside Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, several veterans of the defunct army said Haiti broke a promise by failing to appoint them to the helm of an interim force until the military was officially reinstated.

"We've decided that we're not going to back down," said former sergeant Larose Aubin, who was flanked by a mix of ex-soldiers and younger recruits. "We're not going to keep doing press conferences."

Aubin and the other former officers made their strongest demand yet since they began recruiting men and a few women a year ago with the hope that the armed force disbanded in 1995 would be reinstated.

President Michel Martelly raised their hopes further by saying as a candidate, and then in office, that he would bring back the military, a goal that has met opposition from Western embassies.

The Haitian government has repeatedly ordered the former soldiers and their followers, which number about 3,500, to vacate the old bases they seized several months ago, but it has taken no concrete action. Since then, the rogue force has paraded around the country in pick-up trucks and carried weapons as if on patrol.

Last week, about 50 men in military fatigues, some of them armed, disrupted a legislative session when they arrived to speak to MPs about the government's plans for them.

Their presence has become an increasing source of concern to Western diplomats, who have described the armed men as "paramilitary elements". The United Nations' envoy to Haiti, Mariano Fernandez, called the parliament incident "an unacceptable act of intimidation".

Police Chief Mario Andresol said on Haitian radio that the country had only one public security force, the national police department, along with the United Nations peacekeeping mission.

On Tuesday leaders of the band said they had met senior officials who agreed to appoint them to the high command of an interim force until the government officially restored the army by decree. They also said they expected a response from Haitian authorities within 72 hours, but instead heard over the radio that the government ordered them to leave the bases.

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