February 17, 2000

Vatican secretary of state says Pinochet should be sent home

                   VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -- Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal
                   Angelo Sodano, second-highest official in the Roman Catholic Church
                   hierarchy, said Thursday Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet
                   should be sent home on humanitarian grounds.

                   Sodano, who met outgoing Chilean President Eduardo Frei, said Pinochet's
                   detention was a matter of concern both for the Chilean government and the

                   "Augusto Pinochet has the right to return to his own country," Sodano was
                   quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA after his talks with Frei.

                   It is "a humanitarian and juridical case which is of concern both to the
                   Chilean government and the Holy See," he added.

                   Pinochet has spent 16 months under house arrest in Britain, awaiting the
                   outcome of legal wrangling on whether he should be sent to stand trial in
                   Spain on torture charges linked to his hard-line rule of Chile between 1973
                   and 1990.

                   British Home Secretary (Interior Minister) Jack Straw announced last month
                   that on the basis of a medical report on Pinochet, he was "minded" to release
                   the 84-year-old general on humanitarian grounds.

                   But the British High Court ordered Straw to hand the confidential report to
                   Spain and three other countries seeking Pinochet's extradition.

                   Sodano last year wrote a letter to the British government on behalf of Chile,
                   calling for Pinochet to be allowed to return home.

                   Pope John Paul II visited Chile in 1987 and appeared alongside Pinochet on
                   the balcony of the presidential palace.

                    Copyright 2000 Reuters.