Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide prepares to head home

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Haiti's ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was heading home on Thursday, ending his exile despite a warning from US President Barack Obama on his "destabilising" return ahead of a crucial election.

Mr Aristide was set to depart late Thursday from a small airport outside Johannesburg after living seven years in South Africa, ignoring intense US lobbying to prevent his return before Sunday's presidential run-off in the Caribbean nation.

Mr Obama personally called his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, voicing "deep concerns that president Aristide's return to Haiti in the closing days of the election could be destabilising," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in Washington.

South Africa has publicly insisted that it has no control over Mr Aristide's departure, with minister for the presidency Colins Chabane telling reporters that Pretoria "can't hold him hostage if he wants to go".

South African foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said Mr Aristide would fly home on Thursday evening, and was expected to address media before his departure from Johannesburg.

Mr Aristide's spokeswoman in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince said he was expected to arrive on Friday morning, and his Fanmi Lavalas party has called for a rally at the airport to welcome him home....

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