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Nicaraguan Rebels Declare Cease-fire Until February

April 4, 1989

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Nicaraguan rebels will observe a unilateral cease-fire until February, when the Sandinista government is to hold general elections, a source in the rebels’ directorate said Monday.

The source, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said Commander Enrique Bermudez told the rebels about the decision during visits Friday to their camps on the Honduran side of the border with Nicaragua. Bermudez is the chief military leader of the rebels, known as Contras.

Radio Liberacion, the Contras’ radio station, broadcast on Monday a message from Bermudez that said: ″The rebels will not launch any attack against the Sandinistas until February 1990. We will not look for combat but will permanently be on the defensive.

″The rebel army will be preserved intact, on the defense and watching for the Sandinistas to fulfill their promise of greater democracy for Nicaragua.″

Nicaragua’s left-wing government has declared monthly unilateral cease- fires since the expiration of a temporary truce the two sides signed in March 1988. The truce was to lay the groundwork for a permanent peace but talks collapsed last September.

In February, five Central American presidents agreed to come up with a plan by mid-May to disband the Contras. Nicaragua, in turn, agreed to elections in February and to take other steps toward democratic reforms.

The message broadcast by Radio Liberacion quoted Bermudez as saying: ″The weapons of the freedom fighters constitute the only guarantee that the Nicaraguan people have to pressure the Sandinistas into fulfilling their promise of introducing democracy to Nicaragua.

″For that reason, our troops will remain intact and alert, but will not participate in actions of destruction or attacks against Sandinista military positions.

″We reaffirm our desire to achieve democracy and freedom for our country through peaceful means, but we reaffirm also our decision to achieve these desires through weapons if the peaceful means fail.″

Bermudez reportedly left for Miami on Friday.

The rebel source also said Juan Ramon Vivas Romero, known as Commander Quiche, had temporarily stepped down as head of the Contras’ chiefs of staff because of pain from an old combat wound. The source said Israel Galeano, known as Commander Franklin, replaced Vivas Romero.

Fighting in the 7-year-old war has diminished to sporadic skirmishes since U.S. military aid to the Contras ended in February 1988.

It is estimated that about 11,000 rebels and members of their families are living in camps in Honduras near the Nicaraguan border.

The rebel source said Bermudez told the Contras about a bipartisan agreement between Congress and the Bush administration to provide about $45 million in non-military aid to the rebels through February 1990.

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