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Contras, Sandinistas Discuss Location of Cease-Fire Zones

March 29, 1988

SAPOA, Nicaragua (AP) _ As Sandinista government and rebel negotiators met to work out details for a 60-day cease-fire, a Contra commander vowed the rebels won’t lay down their arms until Nicaragua adopts democratic reforms.

The negotiators, who met Monday, are considering the areas where the rebels, known as Contras, will gather during the cease-fire, which is to begin Friday under the peace accord signed last week in Sapoa.

After about two hours of discussions Monday, the talks were recessed until today, and rebel leaders said there remained obstacles.

High-level talks aimed at reaching a more permanent truce are scheduled for April 6 in Managua, the capital.

The leader of the Sandinista delegation, Maj. Gen. Joaquin Cuadra, deputy defense minister and army chief of staff, told reporters on Monday: ″We come with the same spirit, will and decision of the first meeting.″

Leading the U.S.-backed Contras was Aristides Sanchez, a director of the umbrella Nicaraguan Resistance alliance. He told reporters the rebels presented their plan to the government.

The rebel representatives included Walter Calderon, a former national guardsman now known as Commander Tono; Luis Moreno Payan, who uses the name Commander Mike Lima and is chief of Contra military intelligence; Luis Fley, or Commander Johnson, chief of rebel operations in northern Nicaragua, and Diogenes Hernandez, a commander whose units operate in central Nicaragua.

After Monday’s meeting, Hernandez told a news conference, ″I want to tell the Nicaraguan people and the world that the (rebel) combatants are not going to put down their arms until Nicaragua is a democracy.″

He said Defense Minister Humberto Ortega proposed last week that a Marxist democracy be established, but Hernandez said the Contras want ″a real democracy like Costa Rica.″

Cuadra declined to respond to Hernandez’s remarks and said Monday’s talks dealt with the ″mechanics of the meeting.″ He said the rebels made no proposals to define the zones where the Contras would gather under a truce.

″We are hoping for an agreement before April 1,″ he added.

A temporary cease-fire has been effect since March 21.

Cuadra said there had been ″violations of the truce of a minor character, but we understand that they are due to the communications problem.″

Sanchez said that in a few days the rebels will free the Sandinistas they are holding captive. He did not give details.

Others in the Sandinista delegation were Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Hugo Tinoco and military intelligence chief Maj. Ricardo Wheelock Roman.

On Sunday, the leftist Sandinista government fulfilled the first part of the cease-fire accord by freeing 100 political prisoners under an amnesty program. Most of them were accused of activities linked to the Contras.

Under the Sapoa agreement, rebel forces are to gather without interference from Sandinista forces in specified zones inside Nicaragua during the first two weeks of April. Monday’s talks between special commissions of the two sides could be extended and were to define ″the location, size and modus operandi″ of those zones, according to the text of the Sapoa accord.

Nothing is said in the Sapoa agreement about the Contras laying down their arms. In past talks, the rebels insisted on keeping their weapons until all provisions of an accord were carried out.

Once rebel fighters have moved into the truce zones, the Contra leadership can send up to eight delegates to participate in national reconciliation talks on April 6.

Last week’s pact provides a gradual amnesty for Nicaragua’s 3,300 political prisoners, guarantees freedom of expression, and permits all exiles to return home and participate in the political process.

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