PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Rebel leader Guy Philippe
declared himself the new chief of Haiti’s military, which was
disbanded by ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and pledged
yesterday that rebel forces will disarm.

Philippe then said he would arrest Prime Minister Yvon Neptune
on corruption charges.

“The country is in my hands!” Philippe announced on
Radio Signal FM.

Philippe, flanked by other rebel leaders and senior officers of
Haiti’s police force, told reporters, “I am the
chief,” then clarified that he meant “the military
chief.”

He said he was “not interested in politics” and was
ready to follow the orders of interim President Boniface Alexandre,
chief justice of the Supreme Court, who was installed Sunday.

Asked whether he would disarm if requested to, he said,
“We will.”

He then summoned 20 police commanders to meet with him yesterday
and warned that if they failed to appear he would arrest them.

U.S. Marines guarded Neptune’s office in the Petionville
suburb, where Philippe was headed with hundreds of supporters in a
convoy impeded by adoring and cheering crowds.

Neptune’s whereabouts were not immediately known. Local
radio reported that he was evacuated by helicopter. It was also
unclear whether American or French marines — who arrived in
recent days to secure diplomatic missions and other sites —
would try to protect him. Neptune is a top member of
Aristide’s Lavalas party and his former presidential
spokesman.

In a phone call to The Associated Press, Philippe said Neptune
would face corruption charges. The rebels appear to be taking
advantage of a power vacuum in the wake of Aristide’s abrupt
departure Sunday.

Shortly before that phone call, Philippe appeared on the
second-floor balcony of the colonnaded former army headquarters
before a cheering crowd of hundreds. A burly rebel standing next to
Philippe urged them to accompany the rebel chief to Neptune’s
house.

“Arrest Neptune!” the crowd chanted.

In Washington, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Roger Noriega
said Philippe “is not in control of anything but a ragtag
band of people.”

“The international military buildup in Haiti will make
Philippe’s role less and less central in Haitian life. And I
think he will probably want to make himself scarce,” Noriega
told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“We have sent that message to him. He obviously
hasn’t received it.”

Philippe, who arrived in Port-au-Prince in a rebel convoy
Monday, apparently plans to transform his fighters into a
reconstituted Haitian army.

The army ousted Aristide in 1991 but then was disbanded by him
in 1995, a year after he was returned to power by 20,000 American
troops.

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