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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 January, 2004, 06:43 GMT
Peace role for Guatemala activist
Rigoberta Menchu
Menchu won the Nobel peace prize in 1992
Guatemalan Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu has agreed to help oversee the application of the country's peace accords.

Ms Menchu, a human rights activist, was offered the "goodwill ambassador" role by new President Oscar Berger.

Mr Berger came to power promising to crack down on corruption and rights abuses and said he wanted include more indigenous people in his government.

Guatemala's United Nations-brokered peace accords were signed in 1996.

The accords ended 36 years of civil war between a series of military regimes and anti-government guerrillas which left up to 200,000 people dead.

Noting that it would be the first time she had been directly invited to work with the Guatemalan Government, Ms Menchu was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying she would "like to play this role and offer to Guatemala all the contacts of friendship that many communities have given me".

Ms Menchu, a campaigner for the rights of indigenous Mayan population, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.

'Respect and equality'

Mr Berger, a conservative former mayor of Guatemala City, was sworn in as president last Wednesday.

President-elect of Guatemala Oscar Berger waves a flag in victory after hearing early results
Berger has pledged to clamp down on corruption
The new president said in his inaugural speech he would adhere strictly to the 1996 peace accords which ended the war.

"We can't talk about unity without promoting the peace accords," he said.

"This task will be fundamental for this government, the way to ensure respect for human rights and equality for everyone."

Mr Berger also used the speech to promise a job creation programme driven by private investment, along with pledges to stamp out corruption.

However analysts observe that he did not address the issue of genocide charges against ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt, whom he defeated at the polls.

Mr Rios Montt, 77, is set to lose his immunity from prosecution this Wednesday, when his term as speaker of the Guatemalan parliament expires.

His 18-month rule as dictator, which ended in August 1983, saw some of the bloodiest fighting against leftist rebels in Guatemala's civil war

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