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Bobby Fischer Headed For Iceland

Supporters of Bobby Fischer said the Japanese government has informed them the former chess champion will be allowed to leave on Thursday for Iceland, where he now has citizenship.

John Bosnitch of the Committee to Free Bobby Fischer said officials with Japan's Justice Ministry said on Wednesday that Fischer will be allowed to leave his immigration detention center just outside Tokyo on Thursday morning. Bosnitch said the ministry gave no reason for the decision.

Iceland's Parliament on Monday awarded citizenship to Fischer, who is wanted in the United States for violating sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia by playing an exhibition match against Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in 1992.

Fischer was taken into custody by Japanese immigration officials in July when he tried to leave the country using an invalid U.S. passport. Fischer, who has been held in detention since his arrest, claims the passport was revoked illegally and has sued to block the deportation order.

It wasn't immediately clear if going to Iceland would help Fischer avoid extradition to the United States. Iceland, like Japan, has an extradition treaty with Washington.

Iceland is where Fischer won the world championship in 1972, defeating Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union in a classic Cold War showdown that propelled Fischer to international stardom.

Thordur Oskarsson, Iceland's ambassador to Japan, said Wednesday that Washington sent a "message of disappointment" to the Icelandic government before its Parliament voted to grant Fischer citizenship.

"Despite the message, the decision was put through Parliament on humanitarian grounds," Oskarsson said. He said Japan has not put any pressure on his country.

In Washington on Tuesday, the State Department said it had officially asked Japan to hand over Fischer because of the charges against him.

"That's what we've asked for," said Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman for the State Department. "Mr. Fischer is a fugitive from justice. There is a federal warrant for his arrest."

Japan's Foreign Ministry, which all along has denied any pressure from Washington, refused to comment.

Tokyo had refused Fischer's request to go to Iceland, saying Japanese law only allows for Fischer's deportation to the country of his origin. But following Iceland's decision Monday, Japanese Justice Minister Chieko Nono said officials would consider the possibility of allowing Fischer to go there.