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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Panama 'wants Noriega extradited'
Manuel Noriega, pictured in 1996
Manuel Noriega has served 17 years in prison in the US
Panama will seek the extradition of ex-leader Manuel Noriega when he is freed from a US jail in September, President Martin Torrijos has said.

Noriega should serve a sentence imposed for ordering a murder in 1985, he said.

But France has already made a formal move to extradite the ex-leader to serve a sentence for money-laundering.

Mr Torrijos denied reports of a deal with the US allowing Noriega to go to France, said to be partly aimed at avoiding political problems in Panama.

"We hope that he will return to Panama to fulfil the sentence he has pending," Mr Torrijos told reporters.

"It is absurd to suggest there has been a political compromise between the three countries."

The 20-year sentence was imposed on Noriega by a Panamanian court in his absence for ordering the brutal murder of Hugo Spadafora, a prominent opponent.

Noriega, who led Panama from 1983 to 1989, was convicted in the US in 1990 of drug trafficking.

He received a 30-year prison term but had his sentence reduced for good behaviour.

US prosecutors acting on behalf of France have already filed papers seeking his extradition.

Noriega was convicted in his absence by French courts in 1999 for laundering money through French banks.

His lawyer in Florida told the AFP news agency this week that he would contest France's extradition request.

"We're going to do everything humanly possible to prevent it from happening," attorney Anthony Rubino told the agency.

Country profile: Panama
11 May 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Panama
06 Jun 07 |  Country profiles

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