HAITI . . . WELCOME BACK, CARTER?

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Former President Jimmy Carter touched down in Haiti for the first time since his freelance diplomatic efforts in September persuaded the country's ruling junta to leave. Carter, who oversaw Haiti's first democratic vote in 1990, plans to help in preparations for the country's next round of elections in June. He'll be joined in Port-au-Prince Friday by the other members of the U.S. negotiating trio, Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell. Still, the former president is less than popular in Haiti, where many resent the fact that he allowed the dictators to remain in power for a month, then slip into exile. Both supporters of Haitian President Jean-Bertrande Aristide and wealthy backers of the former military regime now fear that mobs may turn on them when U.S. forces hand over security duty to U.N. troops at the end of March. Carter, Powell and Nunn hope instead to keep the democratic process on track.