Nicaragua Denies Accusation Of Military Incursion Into Honduras
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ The government on Monday denied Honduran claims that its troops crossed the border last week and said the two countries could avoid future incidents by disarming Nicaraguan rebels who operate in the area.
A Foreign Ministry statement said officials determined that ″it is false that the Sandinista Popular Army has directed an attack with heavy weapons or any other type of weapons toward Honduran territory.″
Nicaragua ″maintains the strictest respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, unlike other countries that allow their own territory to be used for acts of aggression and provocation to destabilize and remove the governments of their neighboring countries,″ the statement said.
The Honduran military said at least 50 Nicaraguan Democratic Force rebels, 40 Sandinista soldiers and a Honduran soldier were killed in fighting that developed after 200 Nicaraguan soldiers chased the rebels into Honduras.
Honduras said the fighting occurred took place around the border town of Arenales. The Honduran military declared the area a security zone and barred reporters, so the reports could not be confirmed independently.
The United States has aided the Democratic Force and other Nicaraguan rebel groups based in Honduras and Costa Rica that are fighting Nicaragua’s leftist government.
U.S. forces also hold regular joint military exercises with Honduran troops to keep up pressure on the Sandinistas.
The Nicaraguan statement proposed that, once disarmed, the rebels be removed under supervision of the International Red Cross and turned over to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
It said the armed forces of Honduras and Nicaragua should make a joint plan to ″reduce, disarm and remove these irregular forces from the border.″ Rebel leaders claim they have more than 17,000 men.
The Foreign Ministry said it sent a letter containing the proposal on Saturday to the Honduran foreign minister, Edgardo Paz Barnica.
Juan Sierra, a spokesman for the Honduran Foreign Ministry, said in Tegucigalpa that there would be no comment until Paz Barnica had ″read and analyzed″ the proposal.