LIMA, Peru (AP) _ President Alberto Fujimori has removed his wife, Susana Higuchi, from the post of first lady in the latest chapter in the couple's highly public marital dispute.

In a five-minute nationwide television address late Tuesday night, Fujimori said he was forced to take the step by his wife's ''unfounded'' charges of corruption in his government.

The Fujimoris have been warring publicly over her interest in running for president next April. Fujimori is expected to seek re-election.

It was unclear how Fujimori's announcement would affect Higuchi. She could lose her office at the palace, official secretary, armored Mercedes-Benz, bodyguards and government-paid travel expenses.

Higuchi, 44, who uses her maiden surname, moved out of the presidential palace for several weeks to protest a new law prohibiting relatives of the president from running for the presidency or congress.

Fujimori, 56, said his wife has been ''utilized'' by people close to her who have fed her ''political ambition, unknown until recently ... to be president of the republic.''

Higuchi called a news conference Wednesday, but cancelled it and instead handed reporters outside the presidential palace a statement accusing her husband of lying and ''twisting my words.''

''The speech in its entirety is filled with deceit,'' she said. ''He knows that since we assumed the presidency of the republic my duties as first lady have been exclusively to serve my people unselfishly.''

Fujimori, who has earned the image of a stern, no-nonsense leader in his four years as president, said he tried to be understanding about Higuchi's ''unstable'' character but his patience had run out.

''I have the sufficient firmness and sense of responsibility to the country to confront these disagreeable circumstances. It is not possible to give in to blackmail or intimidation, no matter where it comes from,'' he said.

Fujimori said Higuchi would now be free to ''carry out her political activities of open opposition to the government when and where she pleases, like a common citizen, but no longer as first lady.''

Higuchi returned to the palace last week only to find that Fujimori and their three teen-age children had moved to army headquarters.