The Haitian government confirmed today that it has agreed to issue a diplomatic passport to progressive former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
"The Council of Ministers under the leadership of President Rene Preval decided that a diplomatic passport be issued to President Aristide if he asks for it," Haitian presidential spokesman Fritz Longchamp announced.
Mr Aristide, who was elected president in two democratic elections before falling victim to a US-backed coup in 2004, remains hugely popular among Haiti's poorest citizens.
Mr Aristide's two administrations - from 1991-96 and 2001-04 - increased access to health and education, doubled the minimum wage, implemented land reform and infuriated the country's elite by taking a hard line on official corruption.
Since the earthquake that caused devastation in Haiti on January 12 last year thousands have repeatedly taken to the streets to call for his return.
But while former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier has been allowed back after 25 years in exile the Haitian government, under pressure from its financial backers in the United States, France and Canada, had previously blocked Mr Aristide's return.
The Preval administration has claimed that the presence of Mr Aristide could destabilise the country as it struggles to resolve a hotly contested presidential election in which his progressive Fanmi Lavalas party was barred from running.
Last week 200 prominent people, including Jesse Jackson, Benjamin Zephaniah and Linton Kwesi Johnson, signed an open letter supporting Haitians' call for the former president's return.