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Disgraced Peruvian Ex-President Gets New Passport in Japan

There are indications in Japan that former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, is making moves to return from self-imposed exile to run in next year's presidential election. The controversial politician received a new Peruvian passport on Wednesday.

Peru has been demanding Japan extradite the disgraced Peruvian president since he fled his country in late 2000, faxing his resignation from a Tokyo hotel. A year later, Peru's Congress banned Alberto Fujimori from holding public office for 10 years.

Despite this, however, there has been speculation that Mr. Fujimori - who is of Japanese descent and received Japanese citizenship since fleeing Peru - wants to make a political comeback next year.

That speculation was fueled Wednesday here in Japan, when the ex-president obtained a new Peruvian passport.

Mr. Fujimori himself has encouraged the notion in his communications with Peruvians via a Japan-based website. In one of his latest audio postings, he sounds like he is campaigning.

Mr. Fujimori says 2006 will define Peru's future. He says Peru's voters and politicians have a responsibility to make next year's election an opportunity for reconciliation and stability.

Officials at Peru's Foreign Ministry in Lima say Mr. Fujimori legally obtained a passport. But they dismissed the importance of it, saying he is still hiding behind his Japanese nationality to escape criminal prosecution.

If the former president chooses to return to Peru he faces more than 20 criminal counts, including corruption and his alleged involvement in the military's killings of civilians.

Despite an arrest warrant issued by the international police agency Interpol, Japan has declined to extradite the former Peruvian president.

Mr. Fujimori has denied the criminal allegations, calling them trumped-up charges to prevent him from running again. Opinion polls in Peru show that the ex-president, who governed for 10 years, remains popular.