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Monday, November 30, 1998 Published at 06:55 GMT


Pinochet release talks continue

The meeting is likely to focus on damage to relations

By Diplomatic Correspondent David Loyn

Chile's Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza is meeting the UK Defence Secretary George Robertson in the latest of a series of attempts to persuade the UK Government to allow General Pinochet to return home.

The BBC's David Loyn: "A break in economic relations would be far more damaging to Chile"
Mr Insulza's meeting with Mr Robertson is likely to touch on the damage to relations between the UK and Chile resulting from the arrest of the former Chilean leader.

Chile's interest in buying two former Royal Navy frigates has been questioned and a goodwill visit by a British warship to the South American country has already been cancelled.

The pinochet File
Mr Insulza wants the UK to send the 83-year-old former dictator home, instead of extraditing him to Spain to face trial for charges including terrorism and genocide.

Chile's reported offer to try General Pinochet in his own country for crimes allegedly committed during his 1973 to 1990 period as head of state has been treated with widespread disbelief.

[ image: Jose Miguel Insulza: Jack Straw refuses to meet him]
Jose Miguel Insulza: Jack Straw refuses to meet him
The UK Government has denied any suggestion of a deal, with Home Secretary Jack Straw insisting that case for extradition will be treated on its legal merits.

Mr Straw, who refuses to see the Chilean foreign minister, should reach a decision on the former dictator's case in the first two weeks of December.

[ image: Supporters of General Pinochet want him freed]
Supporters of General Pinochet want him freed
British arms sales have been a major source of trade with Chile in the past with much of the military hardware used in General Pinochet's 1973 coup provided by UK manufacturers.

But in recent years sales have only been worth approximately £1m annually.

The reality of the situation is that Chile will suffer more from a break in economic relations than the UK.

It is not known if Mr Insulza will attempt to meet with any other ministers during his visit.

General Pinochet remains under arrest in a London hospital pending the outcome of the extradition saga.

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