Peru Rebels Display Sign to Deny They Want to Ransom Hostages

From Reuters

Marxist rebels holding 74 hostages at the Japanese ambassador's residence put a sign up to a window Thursday denying government claims that they were asking for ransom money for their captives.

"Do not lie Mr. Fujimori. Money does not interest us. The demand is freedom of our prisoners," the sign said.

President Alberto Fujimori's government had urged that Japanese companies with representatives held captive not give in to what he called the rebels' "blackmail." Although the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement has previously kidnapped people to raise money, there was no evidence that this was the rebels' aim in the 23-day siege.

Their main demand since seizing the residence during a Dec. 17 party and taking about 500 people hostage has been the release of hundreds of jailed comrades. Most of the hostages were later released. Those remaining include government officials, Japanese businessmen and the president's brother.

Fujimori has vowed not to free the jailed rebels. He said he was waiting for "favorable conditions" to send Education Minister Domingo Palermo to meet with the rebels at the residence.

Talks stopped abruptly after a Dec. 28 meeting between Palermo and rebel leader Nestor Cerpa Cartolini inside the residence. Fujimori blamed the stalled talks on an impromptu Dec. 31 news conference by the rebels that derailed concessions the two sides had hammered out.

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