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Peru's Fujimori not seeking asylum, says Malaysian prime minister

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (Reuters) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad dismissed reports on Thursday that Peru's embattled President Alberto Fujimori was seeking political asylum in Malaysia.

"That is laughable," Mahathir told reporters when asked if Fujimori was seeking asylum in Malaysia. "I asked him and he said he is going to Japan."

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graphic Alberto Fujimori pictoral timeline: a decade in power

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Peru in transition
 
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An airport official later told Reuters that Fujimori had left on a flight departing around 9:00 p.m. (1300 GMT). He was scheduled to fly to Kuala Lumpur to make a connecting flight to Tokyo, airport officials said.

"He has left on a Royal Brunei Airlines flight," an airport official said.

Fujimori was absent when Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah read the final declaration at the end of the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting he had been attending in the tiny oil-rich state, although he was seen in attendance at various other parts of the Thursday sessions.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's foreign minister said he did not know if Fujimori had sought asylum in Malaysia.

"As far as we are concerned, we are not aware of any such move," Syed Hamid Albar told reporters.

He declined further comment, saying the ministry as a practice did not respond to news reports. Fujimori last visited Malaysia in November 1998 to attend that year's APEC summit.

"It is true that we are good friends but that does not mean that I am giving him asylum," Mahathir said.

A smiling Fujimori earlier shook hands with Sultan Hassanal when he entered the posh country club venue for the Thursday opening session of the APEC forum summit.

A spokesman for the Peruvian delegation in Brunei denied the asylum rumors.

Asked whether Fujimori was seeking asylum in Malaysia, he said: "That isn't true. He is leaving today for Peru. Everything is normal."

Fujimori's government has also denied allegations by a Peruvian opposition politician that Fujimori had been seeking asylum in Malaysia.

A bribery scandal involving Fujimori's fugitive ex-spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, plunged Peru into political crisis two months ago, prompting the president to announce he would quit in July after April elections four years early.

Since then, two of his ministers have said he may not last in office until July.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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