US 'surprised' at return of ex-Haiti dictator

Washington: The United States admitted it was "surprised" at ex-dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier's return to Haiti after 25 years in exile, a State Department spokesman has said.

The former tyrant was holed up in a luxury Port-au- Prince hotel after arriving back in the country late Sunday, with observers wondering the purpose of his return in the wake of a contested election.

"We are surprised by the timing of Duvalier's visit to Haiti. It adds unpredictability at an uncertain time in Haiti's election process," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a post to blogging site Twitter.

Haiti is wrestling with the results of November 28 elections that sparked deadly riots after allegations of vote- rigging against ruling party candidate Jude Celestin, the favorite of President Rene Preval.

International monitors have called on Celestin to step aside in favor of opposition candidate Michel Martelly for the second round of voting -- a date for which has yet to be set.

The frontrunner remains former first lady Mirlande Manigat, and it was unclear what impact Duvalier's return would have on the impasse.

Human rights groups have called for Duvalier to face trial, despite the justice system is in tatters after last year's catastrophic earthquake and many Haitians are too young to remember his oppressive 1971-1986 rule.

Duvalier's re-emergence has fueled speculation other political leaders from Haiti's tumultuous past may try to return, including Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who has repeatedly expressed a wish to go back.

Crowley added, however, that the United States was "not aware of any plans for former President Aristide to travel" to Haiti.