Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 11:45 UK

Peru moves to ease Amazon crisis

Yehude Simon holds a news conference on 16 June
Prime Minister Yehude Simon said the government had to listen

Peru's government is set to send a bill to Congress revoking land laws that led to deadly clashes between police and indigenous protesters in the Amazon.

The move follows talks between the government and indigenous leaders on ways of easing tensions after more than 30 people died earlier this month.

Amazon Indians say the laws will open their lands to drilling and logging.

Peru's Prime Minister Yehude Simon, who has led the talks, has said he will step down once the dispute is settled.

"I will leave as soon as everything has calmed down, which should be in the coming weeks," Mr Simon told Peruvian radio on Tuesday after meeting indigenous leaders.

He said the government would send a bill to Congress on Wednesday asking for a repeal of the laws which would have allowed mining, oil and gas exploration and other economic development in the Amazon rainforest.

Indigenous protesters at a roadblock in Andahuaylas, 600 km east of Lima on 15 June  2009
Indigenous people say they want to be consulted on development

The government had to know how to listen, Mr Simon said, insisting that the reversal of policy would not put at risk Peru's free trade agreement with the US.

Mr Simon offered to end a state of emergency and curfew in the region, while Amazon leaders indicated they would end their blockade of a main road if the decrees were overturned.

Thousands of indigenous people have been blocking roads, rivers and fuel pipelines since April to force the government to repeal the laws which they say were introduced without consultation and would open their lands to foreign exploitation.

Violence erupted on 5 June when security forces moved to end the blockades near the town of Bagua, more than 1,000km (600 miles) north of the capital, Lima.

At least 34 people, both police and protesters, died in the clashes, officials have said, although indigenous leaders say more than 50 people were killed.

Safe passage

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has said that developing parts of the Amazon are part of his investment programme to tackle widespread poverty.

He has repeatedly argued that all Peruvians should benefit from the country's natural resources not just the people who happened to live in the areas concerned.

BBC map

"We have to open up a space for reconciliation, peace and hope," Mr Garcia said in a statement on Tuesday.

But he indicated that he intended to move ahead with his development policies based on free trade and foreign investment.

"Time will show that those who reject something today will be the first to ask for it in the future because they need development, investment and a better life," he said.

The government has meanwhile granted safe passage to an indigenous leader to travel to Nicaragua, which has granted him political asylum.

Alberto Pizango took refuge in the Nicaraguan embassy after being accused of sedition, conspiracy and rebellion.

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES Peru revokes land decrees - 2 hrs ago
ONE News Peru repeals laws behind Amazon clashes - 5 hrs ago
CNN Peru's indigenous win victory over lands - 6 hrs ago
Al Jazeera Peru congress overturns land laws - 9 hrs ago
Washington Post Peru Congress revokes contested Amazon decrees - 10 hrs ago

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