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Nicarguan Lawmakers Hesitate on Repeal of U.S. Claims

April 6, 1991

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ The parliament balked Friday at a presidential request to repeal legislation that presses Nicaraguan claims against the United States for its support of the Contra rebels.

The Bush administration has been asking President Violeta Chamorro to reverse the law. The president is eager for the release of aid money the U.S. Congress already has set aside for Nicaragua.

The claims legislation is the legacy of the leftist Sandinista government that handed over the government to Mrs. Chamorro in April 1990. The Sandinistas passed the law three weeks before stepping down.

Mrs. Chamorro on Thursday asked the National Assembly to repeal the legislation, which prohibits future governments from renouncing the claims Nicaragua lodged in a 1986 World Court ruling, which ordered the United States to compensate Nicaragua for damage caused by the nine-year Contra war.

Mrs. Chamorro quickly ended the civil war after her centrist government took office.

On Friday, National Assembly speaker Alfredo Cesar said the legislature will not debate the repeal until after Mrs. Chamorro returns from her April 15-17 trip to Washington, where she is seeking reconstruction aid.

Cesar, in announcing the delay, said the legislature’s agenda ″is very packed.″

But his move appeared aimed at placating deputies, including some Chamorro supporters, who oppose her repeal request. The opposition Sandinistas, who hold 39 of the 92 seats in the single-chamber assembly, are firmly against renouncing the claims.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague had held that the United States committed a number of illegal acts against Nicaragua, including the mining of a harbor, in support of the Contra rebels.

The World Court ruling left it up to both countries to work out the amount of compensation.

The United States rejected the ruling. Sandinista leaders claim that, with interest, the United States now owes $17 billion.

Washington now has considerable leverage, however, in the Nicaraguan aid it is withholding. Of the $530 million approved by Congress for 1990 and 1991, only $150 million has been delivered.

Mrs. Chamorro’s administration has blamed the delay on red tape, but it is widely believed U.S. officials have been trying to show displeasure over several actions by her government.

One is her decision to retain Gen. Humberto Ortega, brother of former President Daniel Ortega, as the army chief. Daniel Ortega was chief of the Sandinista government that was voted out of office.

It is also suspected that Washington is trying to encourage a tougher approach in government dealings with Sandinista-controlled labor unions.

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