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Peru's Fujimori extends Japan stay amid confusion

A smiling President Alberto Fujimori of Peru arrived in Tokyo from Brunei on Friday
A smiling President Alberto Fujimori of Peru arrived in Tokyo from Brunei on Friday  

TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on Saturday extended his stay in Japan amid growing confusion, with Peruvian officials saying he wanted to secure a loan and Japanese media citing health reasons.

Fujimori arrived in Tokyo on Friday en route home from a brief trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Brunei and was tightlipped about rumors he was seeking political asylum in the land of his forefathers.

The rumors that the embattled Fujimori, his grip on power slipping at home, might seek asylum in Asia surfaced after he flew to Brunei to spend just hours at the Asia-Pacific summit.

Fujimori had been due to leave Tokyo on Saturday afternoon to attend a weekend summit of Latin American leaders in Panama.

"Fujimori, who was to leave here for home on Saturday, is likely to stay longer due to his health condition," the Jiji news agency said, quoting officials at the Peruvian embassy in Tokyo.

In Lima, a supreme resolution signed by Prime Minister Federico Salas said Fujimori "should stay in Japan until Nov. 22 to continue his negotiations to secure a credit from that country aimed at balancing the budget for 2001."

Fujimori was heavily criticized for flying to Asia on trade trips this week despite an intensifying nine-week-old political crisis at home that has forced him to announce he will step down in July after elections four years early.

Security was tight outside Fujimori's room in a smart central Tokyo hotel.

Officials accompanying Fujimori had given no hint that he had health problems and said his trip to the land from which his parents migrated to seek their fortune in Peru would be brief.

SUSPICIONS AT HOME

However, Peruvian media have been openly suspicious about Fuji's reasons for travelling.

Opposition leaders, who have been coy about beginning moves in Congress to oust him on grounds of moral unfitness to continue in office, are increasingly talking about the possibility he would quit or be pushed out.

"It's obvious he's moving goods from one place to another and that he's looking for a home, somewhere to go after he has resigned or been ousted," opposition politician Luis Solari told the local CDN radio station in Peru.

The opposition Liberacion daily ran the front page headline "Fujimori quits" on a story that Fujimori was interested in a seat in Congress, a move that could give him immunity.

SEEKING MONEY

Fujimori spent Friday in Tokyo meeting Japanese bank officials and was seeking at least $300 million to help Peru's ailing state finances, Economy Minister Carlos Bolona said.

He met Hiroshi Yasuda, governor of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, a governmental institution that helps developing countries and handles overseas development aid -- including to Peru. The bank extended a 45 billion yen ($413.6 million) loan to Lima in September.

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 elections in April, four years early.

He suffered a new blow at home on Thursday when Peru's opposition took over the powerful presidency of Congress for the first time in eight years, further eroding his grip on power and opening the way for possible moves to oust him.

Peru's political turmoil has centered on Montesinos, who fled to Panama after the scandal broke in September but defied Fujimori three weeks ago by returning to Peru and sparking a major manhunt led personally by the president.

The ex-spy chief is now wanted on a host of charges from money laundering to ordering torture and murder after some $58 million was found in overseas bank accounts linked to him.

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



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