Deposed Haitian president Jean-Claude Duvalier, who has spent nearly a month closeted in a luxury hotel near the Swiss border, was given permission by the French authorities today to move to a new residence in southern France.
Duvalier's French lawyer, Sauveur Vaisse, told journalists that his client would be moving, probably Friday, to the region of Alpes-Maritimes on the French Riviera. According to unconfirmed reports in the French press, the Duvaliers recently may have bought a 250-acre property in a village about 40 miles north of Nice.
[Duvalier left the hotel early Friday with his wife and several relatives, traveling by car and van under police escort, Reuter reported.]
The latest moves appeared to signal readiness by the French government to allow Duvalier to extend his stay for an undetermined period despite the formal refusal of his request for political asylum. The former Haitian dictator arrived in France on a U.S. Air Force plane on Feb. 7 with permission to stay for a week before moving on to a place of permanent exile.
In a radio interview, Prime Minister Laurent Fabius criticized the United States for refusing to take responsibility for Duvalier, describing it as "incorrect." A French plan to put Duvalier on a plane for New York collapsed when Washington made it clear that it would not grant him permission to enter.
French officials said that Duvalier and his family would be placed under a form of house arrest, restricting his movements. They refused to specify his exact destination.
The decision to allow the former Haitian dictator to move to the French Riviera came amid legal moves to end his enforced isolation in a luxury hotel in the lakeside resort of Talloires. Both Duvalier and the hotel owner had filed court suits demanding that he be allowed to leave the four-star Hotel de l'Abbaye, where he has been guarded day and night by armed police.
According to French government lawyers, the rent for the hotel came to about $17,000 a day and was paid by a Swiss banker on Duvalier's behalf. This account, however, was disputed by the hotelier, Jean Tiffenat, who said that the bill was closer to $6,000 a day.