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Sunday, December 21, 1997 Published at 08:55 GMT

image: [ BBC Correspondent: Richard Collings ]Richard Collings

President Alberto Fujimori of Peru has ordered several army generals to return home to their regional bases, amid rumours that a coup d'etat was being planned by military leaders. Rumours of a possible coup had intensified in the Peruvian capital, Lima, following highly publicised differences of opinion between the President and the head of the armed forces, General Nicolas Hermoza, as BBC South America correspodent, Richard Collings, reports.

An abrupt, single-sentence letter published by the Presidential Palace in Lima has exposed the tension between Mr Fujimori and the head of the armed forces. The letter to General Hermoza emphasised that the President was also Supreme Commander of the military.

Mr Fujimori added that he was ordering the immediate return of several regional generals to their bases following a military ceremony in the capital. Over recent days, there's been a rash of support for the leader of the armed forces from other top generals.

The President and Mr Hermoza appear to have fallen out over who should take the credit for the operation to end the hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima earlier this year. All fourteen member of the MRTA rebel group were killed after the building was stormed, but most of the hostages survived.

Mr Fujimori announced that he, and not General Hermoza, had designed the rescue raid. Army leaders have warned that any attempt to play down Mr Hermoza's participation would be regarded as a deliberate insult to the entire armed forces.

Over the past five years, it's the military that has traditionally supported the government. In fact, it was General Hermoza who backed the President in his own mini-coup in 1992.

With the army's help, Mr Fujimori dissolved Parliament and replaced it with another one, which had more members loyal to him.

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