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SOLDIERS HUNT REBELS AS MEXICO AWAITS RESPONSE TO AMNESTY OFFER

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Soldiers hunted for guerrillas in the mountains of southern Mexico as the government waited for a response to its promise of amnesty to Indian rebels who stop fighting.

There was no reaction Monday from guerrilla leaders to the plea by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari to lay down their arms.Salinas announced a general amnesty Sunday, saying it covered all "violent acts" committed by the rebels from Jan. 1, when the uprising started, through Sunday.

Salinas said the amnesty covered rebels and soldiers. "Any criminal action against the people or against the Mexican army after this period will not have the benefit of amnesty," he said.

It was the president's latest move to end the rebellion in Mexico's poorest state. Wednesday, he offered the unilateral cease-fire in the region, and there has been little reported fighting since then.

Eight suspected rebels were arrested Sunday. It was not clear whether their alleged activities fell within the amnesty period.

Hours before the president's announcement, rebels of the Zapa-tis-ta National Liberation Army were quoted by Mexican media as vowing not to lay down arms until their demands were met.

One guerrilla leader, who identified himself only as Maj. Mario, said the rebels had numerous demands for ending the misery of the 3.2 million, mostly indigenous people of Chiapas, an impoverished state bordering Guatemala.