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The BBC's Jane Ball
"President Fujimori has announced he only wants to find Montesinos and not arrest him"
 real 56k

Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
Hunt for Peru spy chief
President Fujimori searches for Vladimiro Montesinos
Fujimori dashed around Lima in search of his ex-ally
Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori is leading a nationwide search for his former intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who returned to the country unexepectedly on Monday.

Mr Montesinos triggered a crisis in September, when he was implicated in a bribery scandal, and subsequently fled to Panama.

President Fujimori, who headed a convoy of police vans, said the aim of the search was to bring "tranquility to the country."

His participation in the exercise has led to rumours of a possible coup, but the president denies this.

Earlier, Mr Fujimori issued an order confining the military to barracks.


Every guarantee that his rights as someone who fought against terrorism and drug trafficking will be protected

President Fujimori

Mr Fujimori said the search would continue day and night until Mr Montesinos was found.

Mr Fujimori however added that, Mr Montesinos would be accorded some protection when found.

"Every guarantee that his rights as someone who fought against terrorism and drug trafficking will be protected," the President said.

As the hunt for Mr Montesino got under way, the government and opposition agreed to hold early elections by next April.

Mr Fujimori had promised an early election after the scandal surrounding Mr Montesinos.

Purge

There are conflicting reports over whether an arrest order has been issued for Mr Montesinos.

But the president said: "There is no order to detain him, only to find him."

Poster denouncing Fujimori
Opposition to Mr Fujimori is growing

Earlier, Mr Fujimori was reported to have made a frantic tour of military bases to shore up his support in the powerful military.

BBC correspondent Claire Marshall in Lima says Mr Montesinos handpicked many of Peru's top generals, who are believed to still be loyal to him.

Mr Fujimori has been personally leading a purge of Montesinos loyalists in the military since his former right-hand man unexpectedly turned up in the country.

Election date

In a separate development, there was a breakthrough in talks between the government and the opposition being chaired by the OAS.

The government agreed that the elections should be held by next April.

It also withdrew a condition it had earlier set down for voting: a sweeping amnesty for military and civilian officials accused of human rights abuses.

The opposition had argued that the amnesty would have benefited Mr Montesinos.

Bribe

Mr Montesinos left for Panama after being caught on video offering a $15,000 bribe to an opposition lawmaker.

Vladimiro Montesinos
Former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos is accused of human rights violations
He said he was forced to return from Panama after receiving death threats from left-wing guerrillas and drug traffickers.

His return led to street protests calling for his arrest, and triggered the resignation of First Vice-President Francisco Tudela.

Mr Montesinos is accused of ordering phone-tapping, torture and authorising death squads.

Peruvian legislators and human rights groups have dubbed Mr Montesinos one of Peru's "principal human rights violators". He is thought to possess compromising information on scores of politicians, judges, journalists and businessmen.

Correspondents say many Peruvians believe the president's hold on power is slipping, and that he has become a puppet controlled by Mr Montesinos and the armed forces chiefs.

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See also:

20 Sep 00 | Americas
US seeks 'real democracy' in Peru
27 Sep 00 | Americas
Peru halts spy investigation
23 Sep 00 | Americas
Peru to dismiss intelligence chief
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