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Japan welcomes Cuba’s offer to accept Peruvian captors

March 20, 1997

TOKYO (AP) _ Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto today welcomed Cuba’s offer to accept the Peruvian rebels who are holding 72 hostages at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima.

``I hope this will accelerate moves to seek an early solution″ to the three-month standoff, Hashimoto told reporters.

President Fidel Castro told a visiting Japanese envoy in Havana on Wednesday that Cuba was willing, if asked, to accept the Tupac Amaru rebels who seized the residence of Japanese Ambassador Morihisa Aoki and took hostage hundreds of people attending a party.

The rebels have since released most of the captives, but still hold 72, including Aoki.

Castro was responding to a personal letter from Hashimoto, delivered by the envoy, that asked Cuba to give asylum to the rebels on humanitarian grounds, the Kyodo news agency reported.

Castro was quoted as telling the envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, ``Our acceptance... is from a humanitarian point of view. Cuba is not a country to take in terrorism.″

Talks to end the hostage crisis are snagged over the rebels’ demand that hundreds of their jailed comrades be freed, something Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has said he will not permit.

The wives of two of the hostages have asked the Peruvian government to do everything in its power to end Latin America’s longest hostage crisis.

``It is minutes, hours, days, weeks and months that have affected us deeply,″ Iris Pareja and Luisa Aguilar, the wives of two Peruvian Supreme Court judges, said in an open letter to Fujimori.

``This situation is absolutely unjust and must not continue any longer. ... The families feel this time pass as a slow agony,″ they said in the letter published Wednesday in the pro-government Expreso newspaper.

They asked Fujimori to use his ``maximum effort″ to resolve the crisis as soon as possible.

The open letter is part of a campaign by the hostages’ families to press for an end to the hostage crisis. On Monday they led a noisy noon demonstration of solidarity: Horns honked, fire sirens wailed and bells rang in many of the Lima’s 300 Roman Catholic churches.

Peruvian Health Minister Marino Costa Bauer said Wednesday the hostages were in good health.

``We can guarantee that all of them are receiving the treatment they need ... we are prepared for any emergency that could arise,″ he said.

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