A man claiming to be the leader of Peru's Shining Path rebels says he is willing to stop the group's armed struggle if the government grants amnesty to its fighters and negotiates a political settlement.

The man calling himself Comrade Artemio spoke to journalists from a secret location in the jungle.

The government is unlikely to agree to Artemio's requests, however, as the once-ruthless rebels have been weakened significantly by the 1992 arrest of its main leader and founder, Abimael Guzman.

Violence has declined since then, but the rebels still occasionally attack security forces. Last year, rebels ambushed and killed eight soldiers.

Some 70,000 people have been killed in fighting between the government and the Maoist group since 1980. The rebels now are thought to provide protection for drug traffickers.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.