US: Nicaragua’s Expulsion of Diplomats ‘Irresponsible Overreaction’ With AM-Panama Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Nicaragua’s expulsion of 20 American diplomats from Managua after U.S. troops found an arms cache at a Nicaraguan diplomat’s residence in Panama City was an ″irresponsible overreaction,″ the State Department said Saturday.
The expulsion order from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was ″clearly motivated by Nicaraguan desires to reduce the size of our mission before Nicaraguan elections in February,″ the State Department said in a statement.
″By reducing our mission drastically, the Nicaraguan government hopes to curtail severely our ability to monitor the fairness and openness of the elections,″ the statement said.
The wide array of weapons discovered during Friday’s search of the residence were returned when U.S. troops determined they had searched the residence of a Nicaraguan diplomat, the State Department said.
Shortly after the search, Ortega said 20 American diplomats were being expelled from Managua in retaliation for the incident.
Nicaragua’s ambassador to Panama, Antenor Ferrey, said U.S. troops surrounded his residence in Panama City, ordered all personnel outside and searched the building for weapons.
The State Department said U.S. troops were ″reacting to reliable information regarding an arms cache″ when it searched the residence. It was occupied by individuals who turned out to be members of the Nicaraguan diplomatic mission, the department said.
Ferrey had said five rifles were seized and later returned by U.S. troops with apologies, but the State Department said Saturday that U.S. troops located weapons ″in excess of normal requirements for defending the residence.″
The State Department said the cache included four Uzi machine guns, six rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 12 AK-47s, three hand grenades, 10 FEN rifles, 17 bayonets, one M-1 carbine, one shotgun, four rocket-propelled grenade sights, one light anti-tank weapon, 27 rocket-propelled grenade rounds and approximately 1,300 rounds of ammunition of various caliber.
The residence was not damaged and there were no injuries to the occupants, the department said, adding that the United States had ″expressed our regrets″ about the incident.
The State Department declined to identify the expelled diplomats, but Nicaragua’s Foreign Ministry identified them as: Louis Falino, John S. Boarman, J. Warren Navarre, Christopher McMullen, Katherine M. Igmanson, Susan Kay Mutschler, Barbara M. Hamm, Jacqueline N. Dontric, William J. Overton, Robert L. Delves, John W. Fuhrer, Mary S. Gaber, Santiago Urieta, John Durham, Michael J. Weidmann, Frank R. Newland, Deolinda S. Armijo, John T. Torres, Pauline E. Davis and Valentino Martinez. Government newspapers have accused Martinez of being an adviser to Nicaragua’s political opposition alliance.
The top U.S. official in Managua, charge d’affaires John Leonard, was not on the list.