Peru Resumes the Hard Line

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LIMA, Peru: The hostage crisis in Peru is once again at an impasse. President Alberto Fujimori, who had allowed that freedom for jailed Tupac Amaru rebels could at least be discussed, retreated Wednesday to his original hard stance, saying: "We are not going to allow (government negotiator Domingo) Palermo to go to the conversation table and sit down if they haven't accepted that there won't be any freeing of prisoners." Fujimori said other issues, including improved prison conditions for the jailed rebels and safe passage and possible pardons for the hostage-takers, could be raised. Red Cross representative Michel Minnig and Roman Catholic archbishop Juan Luis Cipriani visited the residence Wednesday, raising hopes that talks to free the 73 hostages might begin. Trouble is, the rebels insist that freeing the prisoners be a condition of any hostage release. In recent days, police have thrown trash and stones over the wall of the compound and made obscene gestures toward rebels visible in its windows. The captors have responded in kind with intermittent machine-gun fire, apparently warning off the police. So far, no one has been injured. Blaring rock music might be a safer alternative.