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MEXICO LEADER WILL BE TESTED AS CHIAPAS HAS SWEARING-IN

SHARE MEXICO LEADER WILL BE TESTED AS CHIAPAS HAS SWEARING-IN

Mexico's new president, who has pledged to seek peace in the war-scarred southern province of Chiapas, gets his first test this week when a new governor takes office.

Opposition groups, backed by the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army, are threatening strikes and protest marches to keep Eduardo Robledo Rincon of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party from being sworn in Thursday.They have even vowed to seize the governor's mansion to keep Robledo out.

The rebels don't plan to participate in the protests.

Robledo says his swearing-in ceremony will go on as planned, and he has invited President Ernesto Zedillo to attend. Zedillo has yet to say if he will go to the ceremony in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital

Many fear an explosive showdown in the state, where political conflicts were sharpened by a rebellion by Maya-descended Indians last New Year's Day.

Amado Avendano Figueroa, a journalist-lawyer from the leftist opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party, insists he is the rightful winner of the Aug. 21 election, and the Zapatista rebels back him.

Avendano has suggested the rebels might resume fighting if Robledo takes power. More than 145 people were killed in 12 days of fighting last January.

"We are committed to civil resistance," Avendano said last week. "If this civil resistance doesn't work, and if the government tries to impose the impostor, no option remains."

Avendano went to Mexico City over the weekend to meet with Interior Secretary Esteban Moc-te-zuma, who has been trying to defuse the crisis. There was no word on the outcome.

Zedillo, who took office Dec. 1 for a six-year term, said in his inaugural address that he is determined to fight poverty and social injustice in Mexico, two core issues in the Indian rebellion.

It was not clear whether Zedillo would pressure Robledo to step aside or negotiate a compromise.His predecessor, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, forced two governors-elect in other states to step down to avoid confrontations over charges of election fraud.

Robledo, 47, has remained adamant about taking office. "I will not resign," he said.