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Mayor of Port-au-Prince refuses to surrender his assault weapons

Haiti's national police have ordered Port-au-Prince's flamboyant mayor to surrender his security guards' assault weapons.

"Nowhere in the constitution does it stipulate that mayors are responsible for public order," said police spokesman Felder Jean-Baptiste.The ultimatum to Mayor Emmanuel Charlemagne came in a letter signed by Undersecretary for Public Security Robert Manuel, giving a deadline of Friday night, the private Radio Quisqueya reported.

Haiti's 6,000-member national police is the only force authorized to carry heavy arms since it replaced the discredited army in 1995. Private security guards, such as the mayor's, are allowed only shotguns.

Charlemagne, whose dozens of guards are armed with automatic rifles, including M-16s, is refusing to comply.

"I will allow no one to confiscate my weapons," he said Thursday on Radio Quisqueya.

The mayor, whose popularity as a radical folk-song singer led to his election in 1995, indicated he would be dead without such protection and said he was "at the top of a hit list."

Charlemagne also said that other political leaders, including former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, were not being harassed about their supposed stashes of heavy weaponry.

The police also ordered the mayors of suburban Delmas and Croix-des-Bouquet to surrender their heavy weapons.

A former Aristide ally, Charlemagne opposed the 1994 U.S. intervention that restored him to power after three years of military rule.

But the two have fallen out since the mayor denounced corruption practiced by close associates of Aristide and President Rene Preval, who succeeded Aristide in February 1996.

Charlemagne's own security guards were widely criticized last year for their strong-arm methods of driving unlicensed vendors and auto mechanics off the streets.

Haiti's police may be acting to ward off violence at this month's carnival. Charlemagne has said he will not provide security at the festivities, as he did last year, because of lack of federal funding.