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SENATE HOPEFUL IS LATEST TO MEDIATE FREEMAN STANDOFF

A Senate candidate who opposes big government became the latest person to try to end the 53-day standoff between the FBI and the anti-government Freemen.

Charles Duke, a Colorado state senator and U.S. Senate hopeful, flew to this eastern Montana plains town Wednesday evening at the FBI's invitation and spent the evening being briefed. He arrived Thursday morning at the Freemen's 960-acre farm complex 30 miles northwest of town.Duke brought along Montana state Rep. Karl Ohs, who has met several times with the Freemen without success. Ohs stayed about 10 minutes after introducing Duke and the Freemen, then left.

Assistant Attorney General John Connor Jr. has been unable to persuade the Freemen to surrender in several meetings, and former Green Beret James "Bo" Gritz, a nationally known figure in the anti-government movement, also gave up.

Duke said he sympathizes with some of the Freemen's opposition to government, but not their practices. He, like Gritz, has some ideas for ending the standoff that he would not disclose.

"I may strike out, too," he said. "I don't want to kid you."

The FBI believes 18 people, including three children, are holed up in the enclave.

The Freemen contend they are not subject to state or federal laws and subscribe only to their own interpretation of common law. They are believed to be heavily armed, and some are wanted on federal and state charges.