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Tass Accuses Washington of Trying to Crush Independent Panama With AM-US-Panama, Bjt

March 11, 1988

MOSCOW (AP) _ Tass charged Friday that U.S. economic sanctions against Panama are an attempt to subjugate that Central American nation and reclaim the Panama Canal.

The official Soviet news agency said in its commentary, ″Reports on developments around Panama leave no doubt that the Washington administration intends to crush the independence of that country and perpetuate U.S. domination over its territory, first of all the Panama Canal Zone.″

It described drug-trafficking accusations against Panama’s military strongman, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, as ″a convenient pretext″ for interfering in internal Panamanian affairs.

″It is only a short time ago that Gen. Noriega was regarded in Washington as ’one of ours,‴ Tass stated.

President Reagan stepped up economic pressure on Panama Friday, ordering that a $6.5 million payment due Panama next week be put into escrow.

Trade benefits were suspended earlier and Reagan ordered intensified scrutiny of Panama by U.S. Immigration and Customs Service officials.

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution demanding Noriega’s ouster. Reagan has refered to the Panamanian government as ″illegitimate.″

Tass said the United States is trying to pressure Panama into renegotiating agreements requiring U.S. soldiers to leave by the year 2000.

″What Washington would really like is to do away with Panama’s independence, make it back into the obedient U.S. puppet it used to be, and seal the U.S. right forever to own part of Panamanian territory and keep U.S. military bases there,″ Tass said.

Noriega was indicted by U.S. grand juries in Florida in February on drug- trafficking and money-laundering charges. He has denied the charges.

The Tass commentary lectured Washington it should ″look first at what is happening under its very nose,″ and accused Lt. Col. Oliver North and former National Security advisers Robert McFarlane and John Poindexter of ″direct involvement in drug-related crimes″ as part of the Iran-Contra scandal.

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