MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A suspect in the 1993 killing of a Roman Catholic cardinal has denied the government's claim that he admitted shooting the prelate because he thought the man was a rival drug lord.

``It's a lie,'' Edgar Nicolas Mariscal was quoted as saying by the Mexico City newspaper Reforma and other media on Tuesday.

Mariscal was interviewed by Mexican reporters Monday at the jail where he is being held in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa.

``They made me sign the declaration without letting me read it and I signed it because they were forcing me, pointing their pistols at my head and hitting me,'' he was quoted as saying.

The Attorney General's Office said earlier this week that Mariscal admitted that he and Juan Francisco Murrillo Diaz fired at the cardinal's white sedan because they thought it was that of rival drug lord Joaquin Guzman Loera of the Sinaloa cartel. Murrillo was killed in August 1994 in a shootout with federal agents in Sinaloa.

Mariscal's alleged confession supports the government's theory that Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo was accidentally killed in 1993 when his car was confused with one belonging to the leader of a rival drug cartel.

The government is eager to close the murder case, one of three major assassinations in recent years. Still unsolved are last year's murders of the ruling party's original presidential candidate and the party's No. 2 man.

Failure to clear up the killings has dogged the administration of President Ernesto Zedillo, who also is struggling with a severe economic crisis, a smoldering rebellion in southern Mexico and growing demands for political reform.

This largely Roman Catholic nation was stunned when Posadas, his chauffeur and five others were killed by machine-gun fire during the May 24, 1993 shootout at the airport in Guadalajara.

Mariscal was picked up on Sunday in Los Mochis, about 750 miles northwest of Mexico City, with a machine gun in his vehicle, the Attorney General's Office said.

The government says the gunmen, hired by the Arellano Felix brothers, head of the Tijuana drug cartel, mistook the cardinal for Guzman, who at the time was also at the airport.

Guzman was arrested soon afterward and jailed in a high security prison. The Arellano Felix brothers remain at large.