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Alfonsin Refuses To Negotiate With Rebel Soldiers

December 3, 1988

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ President Raul Alfonsin said today the government will not negotiate with more than 400 heavily armed soldiers who took over a giant military base near the capital.

Alfonsin, who returned home from the United States today to deal with the crisis, met with his Cabinet and top military aides.

Jose Ignacion Lopez, Alfonsin’s spokesman, told reporters the president ″gave the necessary instructions to re-establish discipline and order where it has broken down and hopes that the problem will be resolved.″

Lopez would not disclose the orders but said Alfonsin would not speak with the rebels, as he did to end a similar insurrection in April 1987.

At the sprawling Campo de Mayo army base, rebels remained in control of an infantry school, surrounded by loyalist troops backed by tanks and mortars.

The government claimed on Friday that the uprising, in which one soldier reportedly was killed, ″had been overcome.″

However, a spokesmen for rebel leader Col. Mohamed Ali Seineldin insisted the rebels had only agreed on a truce pending Alfonsin’s return from a three- day trip to Mexico and the United States.

At Campo de Mayo on the outskirts of Buenos Aires talks continued between Seineldin and Gen. Francisco Gassino, commander of the loyal forces who surrounded the rebel position at an infantry school.

The Rev. Luis Jardin, a Roman Catholic priest who claimed to be a friend of Seineldin, left the infantry school today and told the private news agency Noticias Argentinas the rebels had agreed to ″a truce of several days.″

″Seineldin has not surrendered nor does he intend to,″ said Jardin.

The rebels would consider any movement of loyalist forces a violation of the truce, he said.

Vice President Victor Martinez was quoted as saying on Friday that Seineldin ″accepted absolute responsibility for the episodes,″ and he claimed the uprising had ended.

″The insubordinate soldiers at the infantry school at the Campo de Mayo now accept the orders of the army chief (of staff Gen. Jose Dante Caridi),″ the Defense Ministry said in a communique Friday.

But it remained uncertain whether the uprising was over because Seineldin was permitted to return to the infantry school, Martinez was quoted as saying.

Noticias Argentinas quoted reporters at the base after midnight as saying they ″very clearly heard a series of 15 or 20 detonations of light arms fire.″ The agency did not elaborate.

The insurrection began before dawn Thursday when about 50 members of a coast guard unit armed themselves and deserted their station. Army officers tried to incite troops at one army base and another communications facility. The latter two attempts failed.

The coast guard unit then drove onto the infantry school grounds Friday morning, joining rebel soldiers. The government said the rebels also tried to free ex-Lt. Col. Aldo Rico, leader of the most recent uprisings in April 1987 and January. He is being held in a military prison pending trial.

Machine guns were positioned at Government House in downtown.

The navy, air force, and army remained loyal. Tanks and armored personnel carriers were sent toward the Campo de Mayo to quell the uprising, Gen. Luis Caceres was quoted as saying by local news reports.

After firing mortars at the rebels, which Seineldin said numbered 400, one officer was reported killed - it was not clear from which side - and about five soldiers were wounded, the official news agency Telam said.

A 19-year-old woman was hit by bullets in the neck and stomach as she walked near the base, Argentina’s two private news agencies reported. Her condition was not known.

The rebel demands were not clear.

The news agencies cited military and rebel sources as saying rebels want to end the prosecution of fellow officers accused of rights abuses during the 1976-83 military rule, as well as gain better pay and equipment.

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