Panama Cites Security, Rejects Marcos' Asylum Bid; Door Seems to Be Left Open

Times Staff Writer

Panama on Friday rejected for internal security reasons a request for asylum by deposed Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos, but a government spokesman left open the possibility that Marcos might still come to live here.

The rejection apparently left Marcos, who has expressed a desire to leave his current refuge at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, no choice for the moment but to remain in the United States.

Panamanian presidential spokesman Guillermo Adames read a communique to reporters, explaining the action of President Eric A. Delvalle in turning down Marcos' petition.

Decision Explained

"The president adopts this decision, which apparently contravenes the traditional disposition of his people and government to proceed within the norms of understanding and humanitarianism," the communique said. "But beyond these considerations of an emotional type, there should also be the invariable cause of maintaining above all, the security of Panama and its people."

Asked by reporters if the communique shut the door on Marcos, Adames said, "Maybe."

Pressed to explain the security problems that might have been caused by Marcos' arrival here, Adames replied, "We don't know because he didn't come."

Pressure Discounted

To suggestions that the United States was putting pressure on Panama to give refuge to Marcos, Adames said, "We don't think so."

And when he was asked whether Marcos would be allowed to enter Panama at some future time, he replied: "It's a possibility, but I wouldn't like to say."

While Adames did not elaborate on the internal security concerns that prompted Delvalle's decision, the government in recent weeks has been forced to deal with a wave of public unrest over economic conditions. Some observers believed that Marcos' presence might stimulate anti-government demonstrations.

U.S. Role Unclear

In Washington, it was unclear late Friday whether the Reagan Administration was continuing to talk with the Panamanians or had abandoned the effort to seek a haven for Marcos elsewhere. State Department officials said contacts with "several countries" continued, but White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan said in a Friday morning television interview that Panama remains the only nation under consideration.

The negotiations stalled at a time of rapidly increasing pressure for Marcos and his American hosts.

The former president is increasingly beset by legal problems and intensely critical press accounts of his alleged plundering of the Philippines' wealth.

Named in Lawsuit

Marcos, his daughter Imee Marcos Manotoc and former armed forces chief of staff Fabian C. Ver were named in a Hawaii lawsuit on Friday that charged all three in the alleged torture death of a Filipino who asked a question during a speech by Imee Marcos.

Under an agreement with U.S. officials, Marcos so far has been formally served with few lawsuits. Officials say it is unclear how long the growing army of lawyers can be kept from his doorstep, however.

In addition, sources say the United States' agreement to provide housing and Secret Service protection for the deposed president expires at midnight on Monday, 30 days after the fall of his government.

Duvalier in France

The difficulty in finding a new home for the former Philippine leader parallels that of another recently deposed dictator, Haiti's Jean-Claude Duvalier who is now living on the French Riviera because no other country will take him in. France is eager for Duvalier to go somewhere else.

Marcos, his wife, Imelda, and about 40 family members and aides had been expected to arrive in Panama early Friday after supposedly successful negotiations conducted by a Marcos son-in-law with the Panamanian authorities. There was no precise word on where Marcos had planned to settle in this country, but most local speculation centered on the small, lush Pacific Coast island of Contadora, where many wealthy Panamanians own homes.

American Embassy officials here declined to comment specifically on Marcos' request for asylum. "The state of play could be anything," one official said.

Panama gave temporary refuge to the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran after the Carter Administration forced the ailing former ruler out of the United States during the Iranian hostage crisis.

The shah lived for three months on Contadora Island but left for Egypt amid worries about his health and concern that Panama might extradite him to his homeland.

Times staff writer Michael Wines, in Washington, contributed to this story.

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