December 7, 1998
Argentina's Menem wins Peronist leadership battle

                  BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -- Argentine President Carlos Menem on
                  Monday won a court victory giving him control of his ruling Peronist Party
                  until 2002 after he steps down ahead of a presidential vote in 1999 which he
                  cannot contest, local news agencies reported on Monday.

                  Menem is banned by the constitution from what would be a third
                  consecutive presidential term. He has said he wishes to remain Peronist
                  leader before running for president in 2003.

                  His Peronist leadership rival, and likely party election candidate for the 1999
                  race, Buenos Aires province Gov. Eduardo Duhalde, had sought a court
                  ruling to void a party Congress decision to extend Menem's term as party
                  head by four years.

                  Judge Maria Servini de Cubria ruled the extension was valid and ended an
                  injunction which had prevented a final decision on the leadership of
                  Argentina's largest political party.

                  Duhalde, formerly Menem's vice-president, is seeking to wrest direction of
                  the party from the 68-year old Menem. Polls predicting the centre-left
                  opposition Alliance is headed for victory in 1999 suggest the two rivals
                  could be competing only for the right to be leader of the opposition.

                  Menem's term as Peronist party chief was due to end in 2000 but his
                  supporters at the Congress managed to get a party election rescheduled for
                  this October, to ensure he could compete before the expiry of his
                  presidential term at the end of 1999.

                  The party election originally was suspended after Servini de Cubria granted
                  Duhalde an injunction in August. Another court then backed Menem
                  supporters' claim that he had won the the party election, even though it was
                  never actually held.

                  Menem was the only candidate to present himself but he was forced to call
                  off a formal swearing-in ceremony on November 27 after Servini de Cubria
                  had said the injunction still applied.

                  Menem's supporters waged a campaign to allow Menem a run at the
                  presidency again next year but eventually admitted it would be too difficult to
                  change the country's constitution.

                   Copyright 1998 Reuters.