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Thursday, November 26, 1998 Published at 16:30 GMT


Straw asks for more time

Spanish and British flags have been burnt in Santiago

The UK's Home Secretary Jack Straw has asked for an extra week as he wrestles with the decision on whether to allow General Pinochet's extradition prodeedings to go ahead.

The pinochet File
Mr Straw has written to the court expected to hear the case asking for a seven day extension.

It follows the Law Lords' ruling that the former Chilean dictator did not enjoy sovereign immunity.

World Affairs Correspondent Jeremy Cooke on Mr Straw's difficult decision
The UK's highest court ruled that extradition procedures could proceed by a 3-2 majority.

The decision added to a diplomatic row over the matter between two long time allies.

It also resulted in violence on the streets of Chile's capital Santiago.

[ image: Jack Straw: Give me just a little more time]
Jack Straw: Give me just a little more time
Bow Street Magistrates' Court in London is due to hold an initial hearing of the case, with the general present, on 2 December.

But the Home Office has confirmed that Mr Straw wants more time to consider whether or not extradition proceedings should go ahead.

Downing Street said the extra time was needed because of the number of people want to make representations about the case.

Officials say the Law Lords had spent longer dealing with the case than had been expected.

A spokeswoman said: "The amount of time is a decision for the court. There won't be a hearing until Jack Straw gives leave to proceed."

The department said it was still working to the court date until a decision was made over Mr Straw's request.

[ image:  ]
A delegation from the Chilean Embassy plans to visit the Home Office to present the case for the release of the 83-year-old former dictator.

Chilean Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza is also planning to visit London on Friday to meet UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

The Foreign Office said the pair had already had a "short but very amicable" telephone conversation on Wednesday.

James Reynolds in Santiago: What the Chilean foreign minister will argue
Mr Cook stressed that the meeting was on the understanding that the matter was a judicial process, over which he had no influence.

Mr Straw has said he will entertain only written representations and will hold no meetings.

The Chilean Government has said it will send formal protests to London and Madrid.

[ image: Eduardo Frei: Appeal for calm]
Eduardo Frei: Appeal for calm
Its president Eduardo Frei has been on Chilean television to appeal for the general's release.

He said his government wanted the UK to uphold General Pinochet's immunity as a senator.

The president also called on Chileans to remain calm and not to react violently to the decision.

[ image: A Pinochet protester is arrested at the Spanish embassy in Chile]
A Pinochet protester is arrested at the Spanish embassy in Chile
BBC Santiago Correspondent James Reynolds says the government's strategy may be changing.

He says its defence of General Pinochet, until now based on diplomatic immunity, may now focus on humanitarian grounds too, owing to the general's health.

He also says the government is keen to ensure the country's social and political situation is not worsened by the continuing detention, and this consideration may also form part of an appeal.

Overnight, in Santiago, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrations and more than forty people were arrested.

The families of those who disappeared during his years in power celebrated by blowing their car horns.

On the move

It is believed that the general will soon be moved from his private clinic in north London, where he has been recuperating from back surgery.

But it is not known where he plans to stay during a potentially lengthy extradition process.

He has already spent two months in London after arriving to an official Foreign Office welcome.

The Spanish judge who first requested the extradition is believed to be working on a formal indictment of the ex-president on charges of genocide.

Baltasar Garzon had been waiting for the Law Lords' decision before proceeding.

His formal request for the general's extradition implicates him in 3,178 murders or "disappearances" during his 17 years of power in Chile.

The Pinochet regime's well-documented abuses began with a bloody military coup in 1973.

What do YOU think - should General Pinochet be extradited? Click here to have your say.

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Internet Links

House of Lords - Judicial work and judgments

Derechos Chile: Human Rights in Chile

President of Chile

Chilean Army

Amnesty International

Read the full text of the Law Lords' ruling

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