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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 23:40 GMT 00:40 UK
Ecuador ex-president seeks asylum
Former Ecuadorean President, Gustavo Noboa
Mr Noboa: President after his predecessor fell in a 2000 coup
Ecuador's former President, Gustavo Noboa, has asked the Dominican Republic for political asylum, claiming that he was suffering "persecution" in his home country.

Mr Noboa, who left office in January, is under investigation over alleged financial irregularities during his term in office.

He denies the charges and claims he is being victimised by political rivals.

Another former president, and Mr Noboa's political rival, Leon Febres Cordero, alleges irregularities in Mr Noboa's foreign debt negotiations cost the country $9bn.

Mr Noboa was prevented from flying to Miami on Sunday by immigration officials who said he had failed to notify Congress he wanted to leave Ecuador.

'Bitter decision'

Mr Noboa spoke of his "pain" at having to apply for asylum.

"I must tell you that today I have taken one of my life's most bitter decisions: to solicit political asylum," he said.

The 65-year-old political independent said he was seeking asylum due to "political persecution".

In May, Mr Febres Cordero asked the attorney general to investigate a decision Mr Noboa allegedly made to renegotiate Ecuador's debt in 2000.

Mr Noboa took over the presidency in January 2000 after a short-lived coup against the then president, Jamil Mahuad.

Following elections last year, he was replaced in January by Lucio Gutierrez.

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