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Thursday, December 17, 1998 Published at 23:27 GMT

World: Americas

Chilean Government relieved

Pinochet supporters hope for the General's return

By James Reynolds in Santiago

The Chilean government was quick to show its relief at the House of Lord's decision to hold a new hearing into whether former military leader Augusto Pinochet has state immunity.

President Eduardo Frei said he was pleased that the Law Lords had agreed to re-consider their earlier verdict.

Mr Frei said that it took the situation facing General Pinochet back to square one.

The Commander-in-Chief of the army, Ricardo Izurieta. has also welcomed the ruling.

Opposition calls for General's return

Opposition politicians have called for General Pinochet to be returned to Chile immediately. The House of Lord's decision has come as a surprise to many in Chile.

[ image: New hope for supporters]
New hope for supporters
Beforehand most here believed that Augusto Pinochet faced many months of legal battles in Britain. This belief has now been replaced by a mood of uncertainty.

General Pinochet's supporters who make up a powerful minority in the country, say that this ruling gives them renewed hope that the former military leader will soon return to Chile.

Augusto Pinochet's opponents say they respect the decision taken by the House of Lords and they say they are confident that a new hearing will repeat the Lord's previous decision that General Pinochet does not have state immunity.

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