ATLANTA (AP) _ Eugene Hasenfus, convicted in Nicaragua of helping to airlift weapons to the Contra rebels and sentenced to 30 years in prison, could be pardoned as an act of mercy and good will, that Central American nation's vice president said Sunday.

''This possibility is not closed; this possibility is open,'' Vice President Sergio Ramirez said.

''We have not been thinking for the moment about prisoner exchange,'' he said, but added that after legal proceedings are completed, possibilities may open for such an action.

Ramirez' comments came at the close of a Sunday service at the Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Joseph Lowery is pastor. Ramirez also spoke later with reporters.

Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, visited Hasenfus in Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, last week and met with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Hasenfus, 45, a former Marine from Marinette, Wis., was convicted Saturday of aiding the Contras, who are seeking to overthrow Nicaragua's leftist government. He is appealing his conviction.

In Managua, Justice Minister Rodrigo Reyes on Sunday rejected the possibility of pardoning Hasenfus. ''There is no reason to pardon him,'' Reyes said. ''The Nicaraguan penitentiary system will guarantee that he fulfills his sentence.''

Earlier remarks by Ortega had fed speculation that Hasenfus might eventually be pardoned, and Ramirez' comments too seemed to support this.

Enrique Sotelo Borgen, Hasenfus' attorney, said he would consider filing a motion for pardon, which would have to be approved by Ortega.

Former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell, retained to represent Hasenfus but denied the right by the Nicaraguan government, said efforts would be made to free Hasenfus.

''There will be things done to try to get him released,'' said Bell, an Atlanta lawyer who was in Chicago on business unrelated to the Hasenfus case. ''I don't know how or when, but someday we'll get him out.''