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Colombian ambassador to New Zealand quits amid assault allegations

November 6, 1997

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Colombia’s ambassador to New Zealand offered to resign Wednesday amid allegations he sexually assaulted a young woman at a movie theater in New Zealand’s capital.

Ambassador Hernando Barjuch, 55, denied the charges, but said his resignation was in Colombia’s best interest.

``I ask forgiveness from Colombia and its authorities for that fateful day,″ Barjuch said in a telephone interview broadcast on Radionet radio. ``I have tendered my resignation ... because Colombia comes first.″

The Foreign Ministry said Barjuch’s resignation would take effect after he returns to Colombia.

``He has diplomatic immunity until he comes home to Colombia,″ said German Castaneda, a ministry spokesman.

Castaneda said Barjuch was expected to leave New Zealand in early December, and would remain ambassador until then.

An 18-year-old woman had accused the Colombian diplomat of sexually assaulting her at a screening of the British film ``The Full Monty″ on Saturday in the New Zealand capital of Wellington.

The woman complained to police but was told the suspect could not be charged since he is the Colombian ambassador and has diplomatic immunity.

Barjuch, ambassador to New Zealand since 1996, has also served as Colombia’s ambassador to the United Nations and Iran, as well as Energy and Mines minister.

He was elected to the Senate in 1982, and was later president of the Conservative Party.

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