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Talks on Location of Cease-fire Zones Start

March 29, 1988

SAPOA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Sandinista government and rebel negotiators met for two hours in this border outpost Monday to work out details for a 60-day cease-fire outlined in the peace accord they signed unexpectedly last week.

They are considering the areas where the rebels, known as Contras, will gather during the truce, which is to begin April 1 under the accord signed Wednesday night.

After about two hours of discussions, the talks were recessed until Tuesday, and rebel leaders said there remained obstacles.

High-level talks aimed at reaching a more permanent truce are scheduled for April 6 in Managua, the capital.

The talks were delayed by the late arrival of the Contra negotiators, who entered Sapoa in midafternoon.

Representatives from the leftist Sandinista government were led by Maj. Gen. Joaquin Cuadra, deputy defense minister and army chief of staff.

″We come with the same spirit, will and decision of the first meeting,″ he told reporters.

Leading the U.S.-backed Contras was Aristides Sanchez, a director of the umbrella Nicaraguan Resistance alliance. He told reporters the rebels presented their plan to the government and discussions would resume Tuesday.

Among the rebel representatives were Walter Calderon, a former national guardsman now known as Commander Tono; Luis Moreno Payan, who uses the name Commander Mike Lima and is chief of Contra military intelligence; Luis Fley, or Commander Johnson, chief of rebel operations in northern Nicaragua, and Diogenes Hernandez (Commander Fernando) whose units operate in central Nicaragua.

Hernandez told a news conference after the meeting, ″I want to tell the Nicaraguan people and the world that the (rebel) combatants are not going to put down their arms until Nicaragua is a democracy.″

He said Defense Minister Humberto Ortega proposed last week that a Marxist democracy be established, but Hernandez said the Contras want ″a real democracy like Costa Rica.″

Cuadra declined to respond to Hernandez’ remarks and said Monday’s talks dealt with the ″mechanics of the meeting.″ He said the rebels made no proposals to define the zones where the Contras would gather under a truce.

″We are hoping for an agreement before April 1,″ he added.

A temporary cease-fire has been effect since March 21.

Cuadra said there had been ″violations of the truce of a minor character, but we understand that they are due to the communications problem.″

Sanchez said that in a few days the rebels will free the Sandinistas they are holding captive. He did not give details.

Others in the Sandinista delegation were Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Hugo Tinoco and military intelligence chief Maj. Ricardo Wheelock Roman.

On Sunday, the leftist Sandinista government fulfilled the first part of the cease-fire accord by freeing 100 political prisoners under an amnesty program. Most of them were accused of activities linked to the Contras.

Afterward, Interior Minister Tomas Borge called the amnesty ″possibly the beginning of the end of the (6-year-old) war.″

After celebrating Palm Sunday Mass, Roman Catholic Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo called the prisoner release ″very positive.″

During his homily, the Managua archbishop said the cease-fire agreeement did not mean ″we have already reached peace.″

″Let us not make a mistake. Let us not confuse ourselves. They have only signed a cease-fire,″ he said.

Under the Sapoa agreement, rebel forces are to gather without interference from Sandinista forces in specified zones inside Nicaragua during the first two weeks of April. Monday’s talks between special commissions of the two sides could be extended and were to define ″the location, size and modus operandi″ of those zones, according to the text of the Sapoa accord.

Nothing is said in the Sapoa agreement about the Contras laying down their arms. In past talks, the rebels insisted on keeping their weapons until all provisions of an accord were carried out.

Once rebel fighters have moved into the truce zones, the Contra leadership can send up to eight delegates to participate in national reconciliation talks on April 6.

Last week’s pact provides a gradual amnesty for Nicaragua’s 3,300 political prisoners; guarantees freedom of expression, and permits all exiles to return home and participate in the political process.

If the peace plan is carried out, Nicaragua could become the first Central American nation other than Costa Rica to comply fully with the regional peace plan signed by on Aug. 7.

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