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Friday, 6 March, 1998, 21:59 GMT
Chilean president urges calm over Pinochet issue

President Eduardo Frei of Chile has urged Chileans to remain calm over the issue of General Augusto Pinochet taking up a seat in Congress.

Chilean TV said Frei was speaking at the presidential palace on Friday about the state of tension in the country engendered by Pinochet's impending retirement and his plan to take office as senator for life.

Frei said he was against the idea of designated and life senators, but added that all efforts to eliminate such posts had been exhausted.

"I am aware that the presence in the Senate of the very person who led an authoritarian government for 17 years compromises the feelings of many Chileans, especially those who chose me as president and support my government.

However, we have learned that there are no shortcuts or easy formulas for total democracy, which is why I believe that using a constitutional accusation as a means to express disagreement towards the senator for life and to formulate a trial for a democratic transition is not appropriate," he said, quoted by the TV.

"There has been more than one occasion over the years when we have lived with and overcome difficult moments.

This time is no different, which is why I urge everyone to act calmly and not let ourselves be carried away in a climate of exasperation ." The mayor of Santiago said that all necessary security measures had been taken in preparation for the pro- and anti-Pinochet demonstrations planned over the next few days.

The authorities said that only two demonstrations had been authorized so far, both against Pinochet.

The first one will be held on Saturday by a group of women who will march down the Alameda, one of Santiago main thoroughfares; the other by the CUT labour movement on Sunday in O'Higgins park.

"A special police force will also be on hand to help avoid incidents like those on 11th September and to control possible riots among the opposition groups," the TV added.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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