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Wednesday, November 3, 1999 Published at 05:57 GMT

World: Americas

Argentina spurns 'dirty war' warrants

Former president Leopoldo Galtieri is accused of human rights abuses

Argentina's president-elect, Fernando de la Rua, has rejected an international arrest warrant issued by a Spanish judge against several of the country's former military rulers.

Mr De la Rua - who was elected last month - declared the warrants would have "no effect" in Argentina.

He told a news conference in Buenos Aires that he had consulted legal experts who had assured him they did not cover Argentinian territory.

[ image: The Spanish judge instigated extradition charges against General Pinochet]
The Spanish judge instigated extradition charges against General Pinochet
The warrants were issued by the Judge Baltazar Garzon, the judge pursuing the extradition of the former Chilean dictator.

Former presidents Leopoldo Galtieri and Jorge Videla, and the former navy commander Emilio Massera, are on a list of 98 Argentine citizens charged with genocide, torture and terrorism.

Judge Garzon has been investigating the fate of Spanish citizens who died or disappeared during military rule in Argentina between 1976 and 1983.

The 'dirty war'

Outgoing Argentine President Carlos Menem has long refused to co-operate with Judge Garzon's investigation into the deaths or disappearance of several hundred Spaniards during the military's "dirty war".

Now his successor has made it clear that he feels the same way. Human rights groups in Argentina, however, welcomed the judge's move.

[ image: Pinochet is fighting extradition to Spain]
Pinochet is fighting extradition to Spain
The charges stem from Mr Garzon's three-year-old probe of the Argentine military's campaign of terror against suspected leftists.

Official investigations found that more than 9,000 opponents of the military regimes were killed or disappeared, although some human rights groups say the figure could be as many as 30,000.

Thousands also fled the country, many settling in Spain where they have been working to bring those responsible for the alleged crimes to justice.

Argentina, unlike other South American countries, put its former military leaders on trial after democracy was restored in 1983.

Although they were given life sentences, President Menem later issued pardons and released them.

But a loophole in the amnesty law has allowed lawsuits to be filed against officers accused of involvement in the kidnapping of babies born to women held by security forces during the "dirty war".

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