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Abductions of reporters mar Argentina's image

Argentina's junta is scrambling to undo damage done to Argentina's image by the kidnappings this week of six United States and British newsmen.

All six have been released. Junta leader Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri apologized to the latest victims -- three British television newsmen who were held for eight hours, then released some 30 miles north of Buenos Aires -- Thursday. General Galtieri also offered police protection for foreign journalists; few say they will take up the offer.

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But the situation is so serious that the US Embassy here advised US newsmen May 14 that ''their lives can no longer be considered safe in Argentina.''

The kidnappers' identity is unknown. But the abduction pattern, some say, resembles the way secret police functioned in the late '70s, when thousands of Argentines disappeared.

The nation's interior minister also met the British newsmen. As he met them, another Interior official announced the deportation of Holger Jensen, a Newsweek correspondent, and two Norwegian journalists for having ''compromised national security.'' The Argentine government regarded the deportations as unrelated to the kidnappings.

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