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Possibility of Attack by U.S. Grows, Ortega Says

August 24, 1986|From Reuters

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — President Daniel Ortega said Saturday that the possibility of a U.S. military intervention in Nicaragua is greater than ever since congressional approval of increased American aid for anti-Sandinista rebels.

"There have been difficult moments in the past five years of sustained aggression by the United States, moments when an intervention by North American troops appeared imminent," Ortega said in a ceremony in which he conferred the rank of army general on his brother, Defense Minister Humberto Ortega.

"But there was still resistance in the U.S. Congress to this policy. Now the President (Reagan) has managed to break that resistance," Ortega said. "The eventuality of an intervention by North American troops is closer than ever."

Ortega's statement followed comments by Reagan last week that the U.S.-backed rebels would have "to have their way and take over" in Nicaragua if the Sandinista declined to negotiate with them.

But Reagan has denied that he plans to send U.S. troops to fight in Nicaragua.

Saturday's ceremony marked the introduction of the conventional Western system of military ranks into the 60,000-strong Popular Sandinista Army, which had used ranks adopted during the Sandinista-led guerrilla war that ousted the U.S.-supported dictator, Anastasio Somoza in 1979.

Ortega said the change was part of efforts to institutionalize the army and improve it in the face of increasing hostility from the United States, which funds insurgents who have been battling for more than three years to topple the leftist Sandinista government.

Congress recently approved $100 million in mainly military aid for the rebels, known as contras, and the Nicaraguan government says it expects an upsurge in fighting that has claimed more than 14,000 lives on both sides since 1982.

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