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Government Defends Refusal To Allow Opposition Rally

September 21, 1988

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Interior Minister Tomas Borge says Nicaragua will not allow a planned opposition march because it could end in violence, providing a pretext for new U.S. aid to Contra rebels.

Also Tuesday, the government and rebels blamed each other for the breakdown of talks aimed at forging a lasting peace in the 7-year-old civil war.

Borge told a news conference that the march planned for Sunday - the first since a July 10 rally in which 40 opposition figures were arrested - was intended ″to create disturbances.″

He acknowledged that the denial of the opposition Democratic Coordinate’s petition Tuesday leaves the leftist Sandinista government open to criticism, but added:

″It would be worse and would be a larger political cost and a greater pretext for our enemy and more of an argument for aid to the Contras if there were provocations here that led to bloodshed in the streets of Managua.″

The Sandinistas claimed the U.S. Embassy backed the June 10 protest, which ended in a clash between protesters and police. Nicaragua charged the embassy was seeking a plan to undermine the government. The following day, the U.S. ambassador, Richard Melton, was expelled from the country.

In Washington on Tuesday, House Speaker Jim Wright said the CIA had acknowledged in congressional testimony that it used undercover agents in Nicaragua to stir up public protest, hoping the government would overreact.

Wright, D-Texas, said he did not know if the July 10 demonstration in Nandaime, south of Managua, was the result of U.S. provocations.

The Democratic Coordinate protested the government’s decision to ban Sunday’s march.

″Political groups should have access to the means of communication, take part in the right of association and the ability to hold public demonstrations,″ the newspaper La Prensa quoted Duilio Baltodano, an opposition leader, as saying.

Government and rebel negotiators held talks Monday in Guatemala City in an attempt to reopen peace negotiations to end the war, which the government says has claimed more than 28,000 lives.

″The interest of Managua is to agree on a definitive cease-fire, which the Contras have rejected,″ Victor Tinoco, deputy foreign minister and Sandinista negotiator, was quoted as telling the pro-goverment newspaper El Nuevo Diario.

The rebels have said they would enter formal negotiations only after Nicaragua frees the 40 opposition leaders.

The government and rebels signed a pact on March 23 providing for a temporary truce and talks in Managua. But the Contras say they will participate only if they are held anywhere but the Nicaraguan capital, where they say their movement is restricted.

The Sandinistas insist Managua be the site of negotiations.

″This is a clear demonstration of the lack of Sandinista desire to establish or take measures and set up reforms that permit a democratic opening,″ said Roberto Ferrey, one of seven Contra leaders. He spoke Tuesday on the rebels’ clandestine Radio Liberation.

Negotiations to set a timetable for the rebels to lay down their arms and for the Sandinistas to institute democratic reforms ended in stalemate June 9.

The U.S. Congress cut off military aid to the rebels Feb. 29. The Contras claim they need such aid to act as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

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