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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
Menem protests his innocence
Carlos Menem
Carlos Menem says he will put the facts straight
Former Argentine President Carlos Menem has gone on live TV to protest his innocence after the arrest of a former colleague in connection with illegal arms dealings.

Everything was legal, there was nothing against the law

Former President Menem
Joined by supporters and his new wife, Mr Menem said everything he did was legal and that a court appearance on Thursday would give him a chance to defend himself and put the facts straight.

Former Argentine army commander General Martin Balza was detained earlier by a federal judge after being accused of organising the sale of weapons and munitions to Croatia and Ecuador in the early 1990s in violation of international embargoes.

The two cases have already led to the arrest of Mr Menem's former defence minister, Erman Gonzalez, and ex-brother-in-law, Emir Yoma.

The affair has continued to haunt Mr Menem 18 months after he left office. He denies any involvement.

Honeymoon scuppered

This arrest has fuelled speculation that the same fate will befall Mr Menem. He could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

General Martin Balza
General Balza is the latest in a series of arrests
Recently married, the 70-year-old former Argentine president was refused permission on Monday to leave the country to go on honeymoon in Paris and Syria, his parents' homeland.

Mr Menem married Chilean beauty queen, Cecilia Bolocco, on 26 May.

Secret decrees

The weapons sales were allegedly carried out through secret decrees authorising sales to Venezuela and Panama - which has no army - which were eventually re-routed to war zones in Croatia and Ecuador.

The federal judge's decision to interrogate Mr Menem follows allegations of his involvement made by a private lawyer.

There are concerns that charges against him could mobilise the opposition at a time of economic difficulty.

Mr Menem's party, the Peronists, still controls the country's Senate.

But a recent opinion poll suggested that more than 60% of Argentines thought Mr Menem was guilty.

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See also:

26 May 01 | Americas
Menem marries his beauty queen
06 Jan 01 | Americas
Why men envy Menem
01 May 01 | Americas
Menem ordered to answer arms charge
27 Oct 99 | Americas
Menem blamed for Peronists' defeat
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