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Friday, 17 November, 2000, 07:57 GMT
Fujimori fuels asylum speculation
Mr Fujimori
Mr Fujimori is not commenting on asylum rumours
Embattled Peruvian President, Alberto Fujimori, has cancelled plans to go to the Ibero-American summit, amid speculation that he will seek political asylum in Japan.

Mr Fujimori, 62, is still in Tokyo after the Asia Pacific summit in Brunei and he is refusing to comment on reports he will seek asylum.

Earlier, Peru's opposition won control of the congress for the first time in eight years, dealing a further blow to the president's government.

Valentin Paniagua of the Popular Action Party, was elected speaker by 64 votes to 51, after Martha Hildebrand - one of Mr Fujimori's closest allies - was ousted in a vote of censure on Monday.

Valentin Paniagua
Paniagua: Hitting back for the opposition
Correspondents say the shift of power opens the way for possible congressional efforts to remove Mr Fujimori on grounds of "moral incapacity".

Confusion about Mr Fujimori's standing seems to be growing in Peru after some ministers suggested he might resign before early elections set for April.

On Wednesday, he was said to be flying home early from a foreign summit to quash rumours that he was seeking political asylum abroad.

But now, it appears that he will not now return for the Ibero-American summit in Panama City on Friday and Saturday.

Heads of state from Latin America, Spain and Portugal are gathering for the tenth annual meeting.

The summit is being seen as an opportunity to discuss the controversial US-backed plan to combat drugs in Colombia.

Resignation

Mr Fujimori's crisis erupted over a bribery scandal involving the president's then spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos - he fled to Panama, but returned after failing to be granted asylum.

He has now vanished.

Workers protest in Lima
Popular pressure is mounting on Fujimori to resign
Mr Fujimori's ability to govern has been increasingly questioned ever since and he has promised to step down in July 2001, four years early.

But the opposition has been putting pressure on him to resign immediately.

Peru's attorney general is also investigating reports that Mr Fujimori indirectly received election funds from slain Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar.

Congress has the power to declare the presidency vacant due to "moral incapacity", but needs consensus to do so. And so far there is no agreement among opposition politicians on the issue.

Correspondents say having an opposition speaker could pave the way for ousting Mr Fujimori.

But after his election, Mr Paniagua said although the president's removal was a possibility, the decision was not in the hands of congress leaders.

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See also:

15 Nov 00 | Americas
Secret dungeons found in Peru
14 Nov 00 | Americas
Pressure piled on Fujimori
26 Oct 00 | Americas
Hunt for Peru spy chief
27 Sep 00 | Americas
Peru halts spy investigation
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