Guatemala's former dictator, Efrain Rios Montt, has denied charges by a Spanish judge that he carried out genocide against Mayan Indians while he led the country from 1982 to 1983.

Spanish High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz issued warrants last week for the arrest of Rios Montt and seven other former Guatemalan officials on charges of genocide, torture, illegal arrest and terrorism.

The indicted officials also include former Guatemalan dictator Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, who succeeded Rios Montt.

Rios Montt defended his regime's actions Wednesday, saying he was forced to take tough measures against a communist insurgency.

He acknowledged that some officials committed abuses during his tenure, but says he was not aware of them at the time.

Human rights groups have accused Rios Montt and his successor, Mejia, of responsibility for some of the worst atrocities of Guatemala's 36-year civil war.

A United Nations truth commission found that Guatemala's army and paramilitary forces committed more than 600 massacres of civilians during the war, mostly against Mayan Indians.

The conflict left more than 200,000 people dead or missing before peace accords were signed in 1996.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP .