Peruvian president, Japanese official set to talk with rebels But they refuse to free prisoners for hostages

February 02, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

TORONTO -- Worried that time is running out for a peaceful end to the hostage crisis in Peru, the president of Peru and the prime minister of Japan met here yesterday and agreed to begin new talks with the leftist rebels holding 72 people at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru.

But while holding out hope for a peaceful solution, President Alberto K. Fujimori and Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto flatly rejected demands from the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement to release hundreds of the rebel group's members who are being held in Peruvian prisons.

"We cannot in any way release such potentially dangerous people," Fujimori told reporters at a news conference at the end of a meeting with Hashimoto.

He called the hostage taking "an act of terrorism" and refused to even refer to the Tupac Amaru gunmen who seized the Japanese ambassador's residence on Dec. 17 as guerrillas. "In Peru we do not have guerrillas," Fujimori said. "Calling them guerrillas or insurgents is incorrect."

Hashimoto said Japan would send its ambassador to Mexico, Teruuke Terada, to take part in meetings of a committee overseeing the opening of dialogue with the rebels, but only as an observer. He said that Japan will not take part directly in the negotiations.

Both leaders spoke in front of a crowd of reporters from Japan, Peru and Canada during a news conference. Canada was the site for the talks because Canadian officials have been trying to help resolve the hostage crisis.

It was also thought that by traveling to Canada instead of meeting in either Japan or Peru, neither leader would appear to be backing down from positions that have become increasingly inflexible since the hostages were seized.

Although Japanese officials say Hashimoto has called Fujimori regularly since the crisis began, a gap appeared between the leaders of the two countries last week. Hashimoto urged Fujimori to end harassment of them by security forces because such provocations could lead to a violent confrontation that would endanger the safety of the remaining 72 hostages, many of whom are Japanese.

Among the remaining hostages are about two dozen Japanese diplomats and businessmen, a few Bolivians and several Peruvian security officers and government officials, including Fujimori's younger brother, Pedro.

Fujimori requested the face-to-face meeting with Hashimoto, Japanese officials said, to try to ensure a united stand by the two countries.

The Japanese have grown increasingly uncomfortable as the siege has dragged on and the physical and mental condition of the hostages appears to worsen. Last Monday, Hashimoto called Fujimori to complain that the Peruvian police were deliberately antagonizing the rebels and appeared to be looking for a reason to storm the residence.

Fujimori has said that he would consider a deal in which the rebels would be given safe passage to another country. Cuba has sometimes been mentioned, although Cuban officials in Ottawa said they have not been asked to help.

But Fujimori has said he is not willing to even consider the release of some 400 incarcerated members of the rebels' movement.

Pub Date: 2/02/97

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