QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ Defense Minister Hugo Unda said Wednesday that the surprise resignations of three top military leaders was a stabilizing step in the wake of military-backed rebellion in January that toppled President Jamil Mahuad.

``For the good of the nation and the armed forces I hope that the new commanders act professionally and positively,'' said Unda, a retired admiral.

President Gustavo Noboa on Tuesday accepted the resignations of army Gen. Telmo Sandoval, head of the joint chiefs of staff, Vice Adm. Enrique Monteverde, head of the navy, and Gen. Ricardo Irigoyen, commander of the air force.

All three were members of the military high command that made no attempt to put down the Jan. 21 uprising by hundreds of Indians and a cadre of young military officers that led to Mahuad's ouster. Noboa became president after Mahuad.

Sandoval, then head of the army, was widely perceived as supporting the decision by former armed forces chief Gen. Carlos Mendoza to join a short-lived junta, which fizzled under pressure from the U.S. State Department and regional commanders who opposed the overthrow of civilian rule.

Mendoza resigned his post after turning power over to Noboa, the vice president. Sandoval succeeded Mendoza as Ecuador's top military commander.

Noboa late Tuesday named Rear Adm. Miguel Saona the new head of the joint chiefs of staff. Vice Adm. Fernando Donoso took over command of the navy and Gen. Osvaldo Dominguez was tapped to lead the air force.

Congress on Tuesday postponed debate on Noboa's request to offer amnesty to the lower-ranking officers involved in the aborted coup.

Military tribunals are trying 17 military officers, most of them colonels, for their part in Mahuad's unconstitutional overthrow. The military is considering whether to pursue charges against Mendoza and dozens of other officers.