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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 04:12 GMT 05:12 UK

World: Americas

Pinochet regrets violence

Lighting candles in memory of those who disappeared

By James Reynolds in Santiago

The former military leader of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, has expressed his sorrow for the deaths which occurred during the country's 17 years of military rule.

The expression of sorrow comes in a letter sent to the Chilean Senate of which he's a life member.

The pinochet File
General Pinochet is currently under arrest in London and, later this month, he faces the start of extradition proceedings which could see him sent to Spain.

In a six page letter, Augusto Pinochet, says he laments the confrontations and the violence which took place when he ruled the country.

But in the letter General Pinochet stops short of apologising for this violence as his opponents have demanded.


This is the second time since his arrest last October that Augusto Pinochet has written a letter for publication in Chile.

[ image: The President of the Chilean Senate with Gen Pinochet's letter]
The President of the Chilean Senate with Gen Pinochet's letter
Last December he issued a 13 page statement in which he said he felt sincere pain for all those Chileans who lost their lives during his government.

General Pinochet's opponents have dismissed both letters as publicity stunts. They say the latest letter is an attempt to gain public sympathy in the run-up to extradition hearings.

Augusto Pinochet's supporters, who make up a powerful minority in Chile are now placing their hopes in the possibility that the former military leader may be released on grounds of compassion, due to ill health.

In recent weeks, General Pinochet, who's 83, has had a series of medical check-ups which doctors say have revealed a decline in his wellbeing.

But Augusto Pinochet's opponents say the fact that he's written a lengthy letter defending his actions as head of state shows that despite his physical frailty, he is lucid enough to stand trial.

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