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Sunday, August 22, 1999 Published at 05:36 GMT 06:36 UK

World: Americas

Talks aim to find Chile's 'disappeared'

Relatives of Pinochet's victims want to know what happened to their loved ones

By South America Correspondent James Reynolds

In Chile, talks have started to try to resolve the main problem remaining from the country's years of military rule - that is what happened to the more than 1,000 people who disappeared and whose bodies have never been found.

The pinochet File
This is the first time that talks have been held on this subject but nine years after the transition from military government to democracy, the legacy of the past continues to dominate events.

At a convention centre here in Santiago, members of the armed forces, church leaders and human rights lawyers have gathered for the inaugural session of what's being called the human rights dialogue.

The meeting was chaired by Chile's Defence Minister, Edmundo Perez Yoma.

Over the next few weeks an agenda for discussion will be drawn up. Human rights lawyers want the armed forces to reveal what happened to those who disappeared during the country's years of military rule.

Until now the armed forces have declined to hand over any information they may have.

Detailed discussions are expected to last for several months.

But there is one notable absentee from the talks - the organisation which represents the relatives of the disappeared. Its members say they have nothing to negotiate with the armed forces. They say they don't want to be part of a deal which may guarantee the impunity of those responsible for the deaths of their relatives.

It's widely accepted here that any agreement reached at the talks will only be worthwhile if it has the support of the relatives of those who disappeared.

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