July 23, 2002

Mexican authorities issue arrest warrants

                 MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Mexican authorities issued arrest warrants
                 for six activists who aided protesting farmers during a five-day hostage
                 standoff with the government in a dispute over a proposed airport, a
                 prosecutor said.

                 The government also announced Monday that it would offer farmers a much better
                 price for the land on which they want to build the new Mexico City airport.

                 Under the new proposal, farmers would be offered about $21,000 per acre -- seven
                 times the original offer that the protesters had called an insult. Some farmers have
                 said they won't sell their land at any price.

                 The announcement came two days before the scheduled start of talks with the
                 farmers, who are fighting to prevent the government from expropriating -- or
                 paying what they feel is too little -- for their land.

                 Earlier this month, the farmers took hostage 15 state officials, policemen and other
                 people and held them until the government agreed to release farm leaders arrested
                 during an earlier clash with police.

                 Mexico State Attorney General Alfonso Navarrete Prida declined to identify the
                 people on the arrest warrants, but said they were outside agitators not farmers, the
                 newspaper Reforma reported.

                 The government wants to buy cropland surrounding the town of Atenco, on the
                 western outskirts of Mexico City to build a new, six-runway airport. The current
                 airport is operating at capacity, and cannot be expanded because it is surrounded by
                 homes and businesses.

                 The farmers of Atenco have promised further violence if forced to give up their
                 fields and if they cannot reach an agreement with President Vicente Fox in the
                 coming talks.

                 Mexican anarchists, leftists and national farm groups have been drawn to Atenco in
                 recent months to brandish machetes and denounce the expropriation of farms to
                 build the new airport.

                  Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.