...In the period before democracy was restored an amnesty law was passed, in effect granting immunity to state officials involved in torture as well as those in the opposition who had resorted to violence.

Military chiefs believe the truth commission is an attempt to get round the amnesty law, while supporters argue it is simply designed to secure justice for the families of those who died and disappeared.

President Lula reportedly had to head off possible resignations by his defence minister and senior military figures, including the heads of the navy, air force and army, by promising to review the matter.

... "I think they are creating an unnecessary political issue - and with this an obstacle to what is important, which is to know the truth about the past."

The issue is a delicate one for President Lula, who was himself briefly imprisoned as a union leader under military rule, while prominent members of his Workers Party were involved in the resistance.

Some military figures are suggesting the commission could look both at the actions of the country's then military rulers and those who used violence to oppose them, but the minister behind the proposal says he would resign if that approach was adopted.

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