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Haiti PM fears government collapse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti— Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said Thursday his government could collapse because political opponents are capitalizing on its inability to address the staggering fallout of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Bellerive, who has been more visible than President Rene Preval since the deadly quake, told The Associated Press in a 40-minute interview that he has two immediate fears — how the 1.2 million people living in the streets will deal with the impending rainy season and the danger of political divisiveness.

"You have the feeling that everyone is trying to do his little part and accuse the other one of not doing his part," Bellerive said, including Haitian politicians, international groups and the business community. "Everyone is trying to create conflict when we have the same enemy right now: It's misery, it's disaster."

Bellerive had been prime minister for two months when the earthquake struck, have replaced a predecessor ousted mainly by senators from Preval's party. He is the sixth person to hold the post since 2004 in this politically unstable nation.

Preval took power under a U.N.-sanctioned election after two years of a U.S.-backed interim government that filled the void after the 2004 ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.


Bellerive, an economist whose prior responsibilities included coordinating international aid for this deeply poor nation, said he understood criticism that Haiti's leaders did not do enough to help in the days after the magnitude-7 earthquake killed 200,000 people and leveled nearly every government ministry along with 38 percent of the capital.

"Because we didn't have any administration we could not give the services the population is entitled to. So they say there isn't any government," he said.

Since the quake, Bellerive said, he has spent sleepless nights worrying about impending rains — and their threat to cause landslides and floods that are constant killers in this Caribbean nation.

He said he has struggled to find solutions for those displaced by the quake. Most are still in the streets, trying to cope with poor sanitation and not enough food.

Then there is the potential for a constitutional storm.

A legislative election scheduled for this month has been canceled, threatening parliament's legitimacy. A presidential election planned for later in the year is also in question, with Preval's term expiring in 12 months.

In a country where peaceful transitions to power are rare, that could give opportunities to political rivals, Bellerive said.

"I am not asking for a truce, but I believe we have a serious problem that we have to face right now as a nation," Bellerive said. "The government is not able to resolve this situation alone."

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