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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 December, 2004, 02:06 GMT
Menem arrives on Argentine soil
Carlos Menem upon arrival in La Rioja, Argentina
Mr Menem is highly unpopular at home, say opinion polls
Argentina's former President Carlos Menem has returned home in flamboyant style from self-imposed exile in Chile.

The 74-year-old was greeted by a mob of joyful supporters when his private jet touched down in the province of his birth, La Rioja, on Wednesday.

He says he wants to stand in the next presidential elections in 2007.

Mr Menem was able to return after two arrest warrants were cancelled, but he still faces questioning over tax fraud and embezzlement allegations.

His friends and family are reported to have put up property worth about $1m as a bond for his return.

The BBC's Elliott Gotkine said Mr Menem, wearing a cream-coloured sports jacket and beaming from ear-to-ear, made a triumphant return to Argentine soil.

He was greeted by his daughter, dozens of supporters and journalists as he stepped off the jet in La Rioja, 980km (600 miles) north-east of Buenos Aires.

He is expected to give an address in which he will outline his plans to return to the presidential Casa Rosada (Pink House) in 2007.

"We are going to establish the Second Republic," he told reporters in Santiago on Monday, according to AFP news agency.

'Politically motivated' charges

But opinion polls show at least 85% of Argentines have a negative opinion of Mr Menem and correspondents say he is unlikely to make a political comeback.

Many Argentines associate his 1989-99 government with rampant corruption and the country's dramatic economic collapse in 2001.

But for others, Mr Menem stirs memories of the golden economic era that preceded the collapse and he still enjoys significant support.

It has been almost a year since he was able to travel to Argentina without fear of being detained.

Our correspondent says the authorities agreed to cancel the arrest warrants to get him back to Argentina.

In return, Mr Menem has promised not to elude the judicial authorities or interfere in the investigations against him.

He is accused of involvement in embezzling tens of millions of dollars during the construction of two prisons and of failing to declare funds in Swiss bank accounts.

But he insists the accusations are politically motivated.

It is not clear whether Mr Menem plans to be permanently based in Argentina or return to Chile, where he has been living with his ex-Miss Universe wife and their child.

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01 May 04 |  Americas
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Menem charged over Swiss account
20 Dec 03 |  Americas
Profile: Carlos Menem
28 Apr 03 |  Americas


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