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Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is eligible for a passport but has not applied for one, Haitian officials said Monday.

That followed a letter from the ousted leader's U.S. lawyer, Ira Kurzban, telling officials at Haiti's foreign affairs and interior ministries that he understood they had agreed to issue Aristide a diplomatic passport.

"I kindly request that his diplomatic passport be issued immediately and that plans for his return commence immediately," he said. The letter was forwarded to reporters.

But Interior Minister Paul-Antoine Bien-Aime said in an official letter, sent later Monday, that no passport had been requested. "It appears that to date, neither ministry had received a request for issuance or renewal of passports from the former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide," he wrote.

Aristide is a former priest and liberation theologist who rose to become Haiti's first democratically elected president. He was overthrown in a coup, restored to power, then ousted again in 2004. His return was forced by the threat of a U.S. military invasion; debate has raged for years over what role the U.S. played in his departures.



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