A top Red Cross official has quietly left the country at the government's request, calling into question the organization's role in trying to resolve Peru's hostage crisis, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Jean Pierre Schaerer, assistant director of the international Red Cross in Peru, left Thursday, according to La Republica. A government spokesman, Luis Zuta, said Saturday that he had no information on the report.Some in the government have accused the Red Cross of interfering with Peru's efforts to resolve the crisis, which began Dec. 17 when leftist rebels stormed a cocktail party at the Japanese ambassador's residence.

The Tupac Amaru guerrillas originally seized more than 500 people, but most were released. The rebels are still hold 72 hostages - including Peru's foreign minister, the president's brother and Japan's ambassador.

Among the first hostages released was Michel Minnig, director of the Red Cross in Peru. He has been a tireless go-between ever since, seeing that the hostages get meals, clothing and other necessities.

In January, the Red Cross came under criticism for insisting that police keep away from the diplomatic residence while Red Cross workers are inside. At one point, the Red Cross curtailed its activities because police were not complying.

That prompted President Alberto Fujimori to comment that there was a difference between humanitarian work and "other tasks, such as aiding and being a messenger for the Tupac Amaru." He did not explain.

Red Cross spokesman Steven Anderson was quoted as saying that the Red Cross agreed to withdraw Schaerer to avoid a confrontation with the government.