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Contra Leaders To Revamp Organization

May 4, 1987

MIAMI (AP) _ Nicaraguan rebel officials say they plan to expand the U.S.-backed Contra umbrella organization, rename it and pick new leaders to control it.

″These are not cosmetic changes,″ said Alfonso Robelo, the only one of the three original directors of the United Nicaraguan Opposition who has not quit. ″This could possibly evolve into creation of a provisional government in exile.″

UNO, which U.S. officials have said was formed in June 1985 at the direction of since-fired White House aide Lt. Col. Oliver North, will likely change its name to Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance, according to Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, its only other director.

Twenty-six representatives of about a dozen Nicaraguan exile organizations met over the weekend in Miami and planned to continue the discussions until midweek. The assembly and the new leadership it appoints will have to work out differences between the military factions and disagreements over what type of leadership the military should have.

The Nicaraguan opposition is hoping to gain credibility in Congress, which will likely consider a $105 million request from the Reagan administration in September for additional aid to the rebels, who are fighting to topple the leftist Sandinista government in their homeland.

Both the House and the Senate begin public hearings Tuesday into the secret sale of arms to Iran and diversion of profits to the Contras. Those hearings threaten more fallout for the beleaguered rebel movement.

Chamorro has said the goals of a new assembly would be unification of rebel forces under civilian control, broader representation and centralization of Contra finances.

The new assembly will be more democratic and will have a more direct say in electing a panel of directors, according to Marcelo Lacayo, assembly president for UNO.

″The assembly has agreed to embark on formation of a new resistance,″ Lacayo said Sunday. ″We are just getting started on the main part of the (expansion). We want to take into our organization some groups that want to participate.″

Adolfo Calero, head of the largest rebel fighting force, resigned from UNO in February. Arturo Cruz, a moderate leader who has enjoyed support in Congress, resigned in March.

Robelo, also a moderate, has said he will not seek reappointment to the directorate.

Chamorro, who replaced Calero, plans to seek election to the expanded directorate and said he believes Cruz will not participate.

Some congressional leaders have said the absence of Cruz and Robelo would hurt the rebels’ credibility in Congress.

Chamorro predicted that Calero would be on the newly formed directorate because of his strong support in the conservative community. But he said that shouldn’t make Calero a dominant force.

The UNO group hopes to agree on the makeup of its new assembly by the middle of this week and appoint new directors.

Two groups being sought for representation in the group are the Miskito Indians of the Atlantic coast and the Southern Opposition Bloc, known as BOS.

The BOS group is pushing in the meetings for a unified national army to face the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The BOS also is known to be concerned about the role of Calero and his Nicaraguan Democratic Force in the leadership of UNO.

Cruz and Robelo have criticized Calero and the FDN for dominating rebel leadership in the past.

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