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Fischer is wanted by the United States

3/21/2005

REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- Iceland, the country where Bobby
Fischer won the world chess championship a generation ago, granted
citizenship to the 62-year-old recluse Monday -- a boost to
Fischer's efforts to fight deportation from Japan to the United
States.

Fischer, who is wanted by the United States for violating
economic sanctions against the former Yugoslavia by playing a
highly publicized match there in 1992, has been in Japanese custody
since July 13. He was detained while trying to board a flight with
an invalid passport.

Immigration officials in Iceland said a passport for Fischer
could be ready as early as Tuesday.

The legislation, which passed with 40 members of parliament
voting in favor and two abstaining, took effect immediately. The 21
other members of the Althingi were absent.

In Washington, the State Department declined comment, citing
laws governing rights to privacy in such situations. Fischer has
the authority to waive his privacy rights but has not done so.

Fischer and his supporters have staged several high-profile
attempts to fight the deportation order.

"I am very pleased with this and I think that the dignity of
the parliament has increased," said Saemundur Palsson, a Fischer
supporter, after the parliamentary vote.

There is widespread support for Fischer in Iceland, and the
parliament's approval had been widely expected. The bill went
through the required three readings in 12 minutes.

The Japanese government had no immediate official reaction. But
Palsson has claimed Japan confirmed it would allow him to go to
Iceland if citizenship was granted.

"I hope that he will stop cursing the Americans now, it has
gotten him into so much trouble," Palsson told reporters.

Since being taken into custody, Fischer has repeatedly denounced
the U.S. deportation order as politically motivated, demanded
refugee status, renounced his U.S. citizenship and said he wants to
become a German national.

He also has applied to marry Mikyoko Watai, head of the Japan
Chess Association.

Iceland's parliament voted last month against granting Fischer
citizenship, offering him a special foreigners' passport and
residence permit instead. But Japanese officials declined to
release him. Supporters were hoping the new offer of citizenship
will resolve the standoff over his status.

Fischer became an icon in 1972 when he dethroned the Soviet
Union's Boris Spassky in a series of games in Reykjavik to claim
America's first world chess championship in more than a century.
But a few years later he forfeited the title to another Soviet,
Anatoly Karpov, when he refused to defend it. He then fell into
obscurity before resurfacing to play an exhibition rematch against
Spassky in the former Yugoslavia in 1992.

Fischer won the rematch on the resort island of Sveti Stefan.
But the victory came with a high price -- It was played in violation
of U.S. sanctions imposed to punish then-President Slobodan
Milosevic. If convicted, Fischer, who hasn't been to the United
States since then, could face 10 years in prison and a fine of
$250,000.

Fischer also has emerged from silence in radio broadcasts and on
his Web page to express anti-Semitic views and rail against the
United States.

A federal grand jury in Washington, meanwhile, is investigating
possible money-laundering charges involving Fischer, Richard J.
Vattuone, one of his lawyers said this month.

Fischer was reported to have received $3.5 million from the
competition in the former Yugoslavia. He boasted at the time that
he didn't intend to pay any income tax on the money.