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Posted Tuesday, Augustuly 5, 2008
Desperately poor Haiti new PM Pierre-Louis says "Read my lips, I'm not a lesbian"
By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Haiti's new prime minister on Tuesday downplayed expectations as she tries to revive the government of this divided and desperately poor country.
michele pierre-louis1
Michele Pierre-Louis, Haiti new prime minister holding her first press conference, Tuesday, August 5, 2008 in Port-au-Prince. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Michele Pierre-Louis, an educator who heads a branch of billionaire George Soros' Open Society Institute, said she is consulting with leaders of the 19 political parties represented in Parliament, and trying to smooth political divisions.

«It's going to be very difficult,» the 61-year-old prime minister told reporters at her first news conference since being nominated. «To govern this country is not going to be easy.

Lawmakers ratified Pierre-Louis as Haiti's No. 2 official last week, ending a political deadlock that left Haiti unable to sign foreign aid deals or hold overdue elections for a third of the nation's Senate.

The second woman to become prime minister of Haiti, she says her top priorities are food security, employment, infrastructure upgrades, and advancing health care in the country with the lowest life expectancy in the Western Hemisphere.

Public debate on her nomination centered on claims she is gay. Many in socially-conservative Haiti consider homosexuality immoral, and clergy had denounced her. The matter was discussed at length in both chambers of Parliament during ratification votes. Pierre-Louis has repeatedly denied the claims about her sexuality.

Now she must return for votes in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies on her government program and proposed Cabinet. She will need 16 of the 18 votes in the current Senate, four more than she received last week when she was ratified.

Former Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis was dismissed April 12 after riots over soaring food prices killed at least seven people and destroyed hundreds of businesses. Haitian lawmakers rejected President Rene Preval's first two nominees to replace the him, and repeatedly delayed votes on Pierre-Louis while jockeying for party positions in the next Cabinet.
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