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Friday, March 6, 1998 Published at 23:41 GMT

World: Americas

Army bids farewell to Pinochet
image: [ Security tightens at the Presidential Palace as the General starts his political career ]
Security tightens at the Presidential Palace as the General starts his political career

Generals of the Chilean army are saying farewell to their Commander-in-Chief, the country's former military leader, Augusto Pinochet, at an official ceremony in the capital, Santiago.

General Pinochet is due to stand down as head of the army at the age of 82 after 25 years in the job.

The day after his retirement as head of the army, he is expected to take up his seat as senator for life in the country's parliament, a move that has attracted criticism.

General Pinochet created the position when he ordered the Constitution to be re-written several years ago.

He gave past presidents who had served at least six years in office the option of taking up a seat in the upper house of Congress.

The Communist Party says it has planned four days of national unrest over General Pinochet's determination to join the Senate.

The BBC's correspondent reports that the Government has ordered extra security measures following new threats against General Pinochet's life and to control a wave of demonstrations taking place next week.

Momentum has also been gathering behind last minute legal moves to prevent the General from entering parliament.

Families of thousands of people who disappeared while the military ruled Chile have managed to convince a judge that the General should be investigated for alleged genocide.

Some members of the governing coalition have launched separate legal actions to prevent General Pinochet joining the Senate.

The politicians, some of them cabinet ministers, say the constitution reserves that right for ex-Presidents and not former leaders of military juntas.

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