ARGENTINE President Carlos Sa'ul Menem declared a state of siege yesterday after rebel officers seized the Army headquarters in central Buenos Aires in a dawn attack, presidential spokesman Humbert Toledo said. An Army statement said around 50 armed men took the headquarters and were in partial control of several other units in the city. It said shooting took place but gave no details of casualties. Local radio reported two men killed and five injured in the shooting.
The White House had no immediate comment on the incident in Buenos Aires. President Bush arrived in Brazil yesterday to start a one-week goodwill visit to South America that includes a stop in Argentina Wednesday and Thursday. The Army statement said the situation was normal elsewhere in the country.
By 6 a.m. no troops could be seen around the Army headquarters. Reporters at the scene said they were waved back at gunpoint by three rebel officers who came out of the building and raised the Argentine battle flag, saying only ``For the Fatherland'' before re-entering.
Politicians at Government House said Mr. Menem had promised to act energetically to deal with the rebellion, the fourth since April 1987. An emergency Cabinet meeting had been called.
Congressman Miguel Angel Toma told local radio he understood the rebels were linked to retired Col. Mohamed Ali Seineldin, who had led an uprising in December 1988. Colonel Seineldin is currently serving 60 days detention at a military base after issuing a letter to Menem in which he warned of a potentially explosive situation.
The three previous Army rebellions involved groups of disgruntled junior officers.
The officers were opposed to the Army High Command and unhappy at the way in which military personnel were brought to trial for crimes committed during the war against leftist subversives under the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. They also were criticized for their role in the 1982 Malvinas (Falklands) War. Officer pay was also reported as a reason for the uprising.
There was no information available on whether the rebellion would affect Mr. Bush's planned visit.