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CASH OFFERED FOR DEATH OF NORIEGA FOES, REPORT SAYS

SHARE CASH OFFERED FOR DEATH OF NORIEGA FOES, REPORT SAYS

Supporters of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega have offered $250,000 to assassins who kill six of his enemies, including a former president, says a report Friday in the pro-government newspaper Critica.

The offer, presented as a letter from unnamed businessmen to a daily columnist, could not be confirmed immediately."They (opponents) have allowed a price to be put on (Noriega's) head, with dollars given to them by the United States," the letter said. Therefore, "we consider it justified to use our money to pay those who execute traitors."

"We have international contacts and there will be no difficulty in carrying out these sworn duties," said the letter, published in a column by Balatazar Renan Aizprua, spokesman for the state power authority.

It said the unnamed "nationalist" businessmen had deposited the money in a Swiss account.

Armed men in civilian clothes invaded a radio station Friday that broadcast a rebel communique against Noriega during Tuesday's coup attempt. They destroyed broadcast equipment and forced employees to leave.

In Washington, President Bush defended his handling of the failed coup, saying there was no opportunity to seize Noriega and that use of U.S. force "wasn't warranted under the existing circumstances."

Bush said he would not rule out any option in a future coup attempt, including military intervention.

Threats to Noriega's enemies and the attack on the radio station came after the general, who blames the coup on the United States, said he would get tough with opponents.

The six people threatened include former President Eric Delvalle, who tried to fire Noriega last year and was dismissed, and Col. Roberto Diaz Herrera, a former top commander who was among the first to accuse Noriega of drug trafficking.

Opposition leader Guillermo Endara continued a hunger strike from the shelter of the papal nuncio's residence a day after he was beaten and thrown out of his office by Noriega's soldiers.