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Peru's Fujimori talks tough
LIMA, Peru (Reuters) -- President Alberto Fujimori talked tough on Tuesday, rejecting calls for him to quit and seeking to tighten his grip on the military after the surprise return of his ex-spy chief deepened Peru's political crisis.
Fujimori spent half the night and all morning at the headquarters of the notorious national intelligence service (SIN) after hours of meetings on Monday with military chiefs capping a day of drama. The powerful spy master, Vladimiro Montesinos, was nowhere to be seen.
"I am not going to take the easy way out at a moment of crisis because I am going to continue at the head of the country so that it remains viable," Fujimori said, a clear reference to Vice President Francisco Tudela, who quit on Monday.
But the return of Montesinos, who burst back onto the scene on Monday after a failed asylum bid in Panama, escalated the 5-week-old crisis.
Cornered by a corruption scandal involving Montesinos, Fujimori, in office since 1990, announced he would call elections four years early and step down next July.
"The return of Montesinos puts Peru's democratic stability at serious risk," said Diego Garcia Sayan, president of the Andean College of Jurists.
"I think there are serious doubts (over the elections) above all because of these delays, because of this pressure," Martin Belaunde, dean of Peru's college of lawyers, said.
Montesinos, who ran the SIN for a decade amid charges of corruption and torture, was whisked away by military helicopter after his dawn arrival and his whereabouts remained a mystery.
But his presence was felt everywhere as talks between the government and opposition collapsed in acrimony on Monday.
The stumbling block was the government's refusal to budge on demands for a sweeping amnesty for human rights abuses as a precondition for elections.
Although a coup looks unlikely, analysts said the military chiefs would do all they could to get such an amnesty tailor made for them and Montesinos, before retiring at the end of the year.
"Fujimori is theoretically head of the armed forces but in reality, he is a hostage to them. We're looking at a coup in disguise," Belaunde told CPN radio.
The head of the region's top diplomatic body, the Organization of American States (OAS), was flying to Peru on Tuesday on an emergency mission to try to rescue the talks.
The deepening crisis put fresh pressure on Brady bonds and the sol currency, on which $1 billion in loans depend, as Peruvian officials met with an International Monetary Fund team.
Montesinos, meanwhile, was flaunting his influence from the tabloid, SIN-controlled press. "Vladi can walk all over the country without giving a fig," trumpeted the El Mananero daily.
Fujimori spent half of Monday touring army headquarters and barracks and it was not clear if he had met with Montesinos. "I am in control of the armed forces," Fujimori declared.
The amnesty plan would give iron-clad protection from prosecution for abuses committed during Peru's wars on drugs lords and leftist rebels -- a time when Montesinos authorized phone taps, the torture of political opponents and death squads, analysts say.
OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria, who was due in Lima on Tuesday night, said he was "profoundly concerned" by the return of Montesinos. Washington also said it was worried.
Meanwhile calls were mounting for the president to quit. The government's human rights ombudsman Jorge Santistevan said on Monday Fujimori's "autocratic administration" had to go.
Graffiti scrawled on a wall in central Lima, where protesters clashed briefly with police on Monday, said: "Not one day more. Out Fujimori."
Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Peruvian government in turmoil after ex-spy chief's return
Bienvenidos al Ministerio de la Presidencia (Spanish)
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