Sunday, January 02, 2005

Iceland tells U.S. to butt out; Fischer still welcome

"REYKJAVIK (AP) Iceland has rejected a U.S. request to drop the offer of a residency permit for former American chess champion Bobby Fischer, officials said Tuesday.

The U.S. ambassador to Iceland, James Gadsden, asked the country last week to withdraw its offer because Fischer is wanted in the United States on criminal charges.

Fischer, who is being held in Japan, is wanted in the United States on charges of violating U.N. sanctions against Yugoslavia when he played a chess match there in 1992.

But on Monday, Foreign Secretary David Oddsson invited Gadsden to a meeting and told the U.S. ambassador that the Icelandic government stood by its offer, Icelandic officials said.

Gadsden was told that Iceland wanted to recognize its historic connection with Fischer, who has been held in great esteem here since winning the chess World Championship in Reykjavik in 1972.

Oddsson also told Gadsden that Fischer's alleged crime had exceeded Iceland's statute of limitations, and for that reason Iceland would not be bound by a U.S. extradition request if the chess player moved from Japan to Iceland.

Gunnar Smari Gunnarsson, Iceland's permanent secretary of state, said in an interview Tuesday: "Nothing has been withdrawn. It is now up to the Japanese government. We are not pressing the matter, but if Fischer comes here, he will be let into the country."

Fischer, 61, is being held in detention in Japan, where he was caught trying to board a flight for the Philippines with an invalid passport in July after the United States revoked his passport.

Fischer, who has said he would like to move to Iceland, is fighting a deportation order to the United States."

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