Thursday, October 22, 1998 Published at 08:18 GMT 09:18 UK
Thatcher demands Pinochet's release
Baroness Thatcher: A friend of the general
Baroness Thatcher has called for the immediate release of the former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, who is under arrest in a London clinic following an extradition request from Spain.
In contrast, present UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, in his first public comments about the arrest, has condemned General Pinochet's actions while in power.
"It would be disgraceful to preach reconciliation with one, while maintaining under arrest someone who, during the same conflict, did so much to save so many British lives," she writes.
"General Pinochet must be allowed to return to his own country forthwith."
Tories back intervention
Conservative MP David Wilshire, a member of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, backed Lady Thatcher's intervention as "absolutely right".
He said Mr Blair was happy to "cosy up" to left-wing dictators during his recent visit to China.
Mr Wilshire compared the political situation in Chile to the Northern Ireland peace process.
The people of Chile, he said, "have decided just as this government has decided in Northern Ireland to put the past behind them - to look for compromise and to work for the future.
"We should not step in and mess that up for them. We have caused chaos in Chile."
Despite being repeatedly pressed on the same programme, Deputy Tory leader Peter Lilley refused to be drawn on whether he agreed with Lady Thatcher that General Pinochet should be released.
He said: "I thought it was right that Mrs Thatcher should raise something from her own experience."
Human rights abuses
He was held after Spanish judges investigating the disappearance and murder of Spaniards during the former dictator's rule between 1973 and 1990 made a preliminary request for his extradition from the UK.
However, the people of Chile had decided how to come to terms with their past, she went on.
"An essential part of the process has been the settlement of the status of General Pinochet and it is not for Spain, Britain or any other country to interfere in what is an internal matter for Chile," she said.
Blair condemns Pinochet
Lady Thatcher's intervention came as Mr Blair made his first public comments on the arrest of the former dictator.
But when asked about the general's years in power, Mr Blair said he "condemned everything he did during the period".