Let Haiti sort out its own mess: Leader

Mirlande Manigat said Haitian people should find a solution to the crisis.

Port-au-Prince: The front-runner in Haiti`s disputed Presidential Elections, Mirlande Manigat, is urging the international community not to impose its own political solution on the quake-hit nation.

"It is a Haitian crisis, and it is the Haitian people who have to find a solution," Manigat, a 70-year-old former first lady who was the clear leader in the November 28 first round poll, told journalists late Tuesday.

A resolution should not be "created and imposed" by the international community, she added.

President Rene Preval, who has served a maximum two terms and is accused of rigging the poll in favour of a handpicked successor, has delayed publication of the final results until an international probe has been carried out.

The disputed vote has further destabilised the impoverished country, much of which is still in ruins from a deadly January earthquake that killed a quarter of a million people and has been battling a cholera outbreak since mid-October.

The outbreak -- the Caribbean nation`s first in over a century -- has now killed 2,591 people, officials said, and 21,518 people have been treated for the water-borne bacterial infection, including 63,711 hospitalisations.

And in a grim twist, officials said angry Haitian mobs have lynched a total of at least 45 suspected sorcerers in recent weeks, accusing them of spreading the deadly disease. Most were killed in the far southwestern region of Grand`Anse, which has largely been spared of the outbreak.

"The victims -- most of them voodoo priests -- were stoned or hacked with machetes before being burned in the street," said Communications Ministry official Moise Fritz Evens.

The cholera outbreak led to deadly anti-UN riots last month as a desperate populace turned its anger on peacekeepers from Nepal accused of bringing the disease into the country.

About half of Haiti`s population is believed to practice the voodoo religion in some form, though many also follow other religious beliefs at the same time. Sorcery and spiritual magic have been incorporated into some of the beliefs.

The attacks came amid growing religious tensions -- namely between ardent voodoo followers and evangelical Christians -- in the wake of January`s catastrophic earthquake that killed 250,000 people and left more than one million homeless.

A delegation from the Organisation of American States (OAS) is due to arrive in Haiti over the weekend and begin a probe on Monday into the alleged vote-rigging before a recount of first round tally sheets.

Manigat was sceptical that a recount led by international actors would have a more satisfactory outcome than the first ballot count.

Bureau Report