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Sandinista Decries New Contra Aid : Ambassador Says It Would Violate Spirit of Peace Process

September 17, 1987|JAMES GERSTENZANG and SARA FRITZ | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration's desire to send additional money next month to Nicaragua's contras prompted a complaint Wednesday by the Sandinista ambassador here that such assistance "would violate the spirit of the peace process."

And, with Central American foreign ministers planning to meet today in Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, to discuss the implementation of the peace agreement, the White House defended new spending for the contras, even though it has promised to give the peace plan a chance to work.

Speaking at a forum of Central American ambassadors, Carlos Tunnerman, the Nicaraguan envoy to the United States, said that "any kind of aid to the contras would violate the spirit of the peace process." He took issue with the Reagan Administration's contention that the military pressure exerted by the contras has forced the Sandinistas to join the proposal for a cease-fire.

Doesn't Need Pressure

"Nicaragua does not need to be pressured by war to sit down and have peace negotiations," he said.

The Administration said that it supports a plan proposed by House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) to seek approval of money for the contras in a 30-day continuing resolution that would fund government programs until 1988 budget measures are enacted. Michel said Tuesday that he would seek $8.3 million over 30 days but scaled that figure back Wednesday to about $3 million for non-lethal assistance over a 40-day period.

Congressional Democrats decided not to oppose the plan if the money is restricted to non-lethal aid. According to a congressional spokesman, House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) and Michel reached an "agreement in principle" on the $3 million. And White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that "we support the agreement."

"It's a non-issue," said Wilson Morris, a spokesman for Wright. "Nobody wanted to fight on this issue at this time. This is not the time to take a vote on contra aid."

Nevertheless, Republicans viewed the agreement as a small but significant breakthrough in the current partisan stalemate over contra aid.

In persuading Wright to accept it, Michel argued that the contras should be funded under the short-term spending bill because the measure continues funding for all other government programs at current levels.

Fitzwater said: "It doesn't seek any new funds. It simply says that Congress . . . wants to extend the budget at existing levels while they work out the budget process. We do not consider it as a repudiation in any way of our commitment to Speaker Wright."

Will Seek $270 Million

With peace efforts picking up in the region and in Washington, Reagan had said that he would request no funding for the contras until after Sept. 30 when fiscal 1987 ends. Current U.S. assistance of $100 million expires then. But the Administration, asserting that the Sandinistas will not meet the peace plan's democratic reforms unless the contras can pose the threat of renewed military pressure, also has said that it would seek $270 million for the contras over an 18-month period beginning in fiscal 1988.

Wright was given the promise that no funds would be sought until after Sept. 30 when he and the President reached agreement in August on a bipartisan proposal to end the fighting in Central America and promote democratic reforms.

Fitzwater also said Wednesday that Reagan probably will meet with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez, a central figure in the peace plan, when the Central American leader visits Washington next week, although no meeting has been arranged.

Arias is one of four Central American leaders who will visit the United States in coming weeks. Fitzwater was reluctant to state unequivocally that Reagan would meet with the Costa Rican leader, whose advocacy of the Central American agreement has put him at odds with the Administration.

The peace plan signed by the leaders of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras is scheduled to take effect Nov. 7. It calls for an end to the fighting and a cessation of foreign military assistance to insurgents in the region.

Honduras faces a dilemma over the contras. Page 18.

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