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Tuesday, December 1, 1998 Published at 12:52 GMT


US enters Pinochet row

General Pinochet's lawyers say he is to ill for extradition

The United States has intervened in the controversy surrounding Chile's former dictator, General Augusto Pinochet - suggesting that the Chilean authorities themselves should be allowed to decide his fate.

The pinochet File
The general is being held on bail in Britain awaiting a decision on whether he should be extradited to Spain to face charges of genocide and torture.

The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington: The US does not want to be seen to be involved
The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, said: "The citizens of Chile are wrestling with the very difficult problem of how to balance the needs of justice with the requirements of reconciliation."

Speaking in Washington after the international donors conference to raise money for Palestinians, she declared that "significant respect should be given to their conclusions".

[ image: Madeleine Albright makes her position clear in Washington]
Madeleine Albright makes her position clear in Washington
Mrs Albright said her comments were made against the background of a firm US stance on justice and accountability.

"The United States is committed to principles of accountability and justice, as shown by our strong support for the international war crimes tribunal on former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

"The record of the United States in working to see those responsible for those kind of crimes brought to justice is second to none."

Madeleine Albright: "Citizens of Chile are wrestling with a very difficult problem."
The United States helped General Pinochet to seize power in 1973, secretly supporting the overthrow of his predecessor Salvador Allende. The US also gave the General crucial backing during the early part of his presidency.

The BBC Washington Correspondent, Richard Lister, says the issue is sensitive for the Americans and they may have cause for concern about whom he may implicate in any future court proceedings.

Our correspondent says that although the US officials say they are not trying to influence the final decision one way or another, Mrs Albright's comments will be hard for the UK Government to ignore.

International struggle

Spanish Human Rights lawyer Juan Garces: Chile can apply to extradite Pinochet
Meanwhile, the Chilean Foreign Minister, Jose Miguel Insulza, is in Madrid to try to persuade Spain not to pursue its extradition application.

The Spanish Government says it is a judicial matter that rests with Britain.

On Monday, General Pinochet was told to leave the private hospital in North London where he has been staying during the legal battle.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Madrid: Chile's foreign minister is unlikely to get what he wants from Spain
The hospital says he no longer needs specialist treatment and should find alternative accommodation.

There have been suggestions that the UK Home Secretary, Jack Straw, could grant the 83-year old former dictator's release on grounds of ill health.

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