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Two Former Latin American Presidents Offer To Mediate in Panama

June 1, 1988

PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) _ Former presidents Daniel Oduber of Costa Rica and Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela said they offered to mediate a solution to the crisis in Panama at a meeting Tuesday with Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega.

They told reporters they met Noriega, who as head of the Defense Forces is the effective leader of Panama, for two hours at Tocumen, a Panamanian air force base near the capital.

Acting chief executive Manuel Palma Solis also attended.

Andres Perez told reporters, ″We came to offer our good offices to try to find a solution to the problem. We are doing this as Latin Americans because we are worried.″

Both former presidents are involved in the effort launched this week by President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica to solve the crisis over Noriega, who is under indictment in the United States on drug trafficking and money laundering charges and under pressure from the Reagan administration to quit.

Noreiga has refused to step down. Negotiations by a State Department envoy and Noriega representatives to have him resign if the indictments are dropped have failed to budge the general.

U.S. economic sanctions, including the freezing of Panamanian funds in the United States, have also failed to move him.

Andres Perez and Oduber said their mission could be divided into two parts - to achieve a dialogue between the government and the opposition, and to resolve the confrontation between the United States and the government controlled by Noriega.

″That was the object of our conversation here,″ Andres Perez added.

The meeting took place behind closed doors, in a lounge at the air base a few minutes after Perez and Oduber arrived.

Details of their mission have not been made public.

The man regarded as Noriega’s figurehead president, Eric Arturo Delvalle, fired the general shortly after grand juries in Florida returned the drug- related indictments in February.

But Noriega had his hand-picked legislature fire Delvalle from his president’s job, instead, and appoint Palma Solis, the education minister, in Delvalle’s place with the title of acting chief executive.

Since then, Delvalle has been in hiding somewhere in Panama.

The United States still recognizes him as Panama’s legitimate president.

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