MANAGUA, Nicaragua — President Daniel Ortega warned Nicaraguans on Saturday not to expect that "peace is around the corner" despite hopes raised by a regional peace plan.
"While . . . there are winds that gave us hope that peace can be reached, peace is not yet a reality," Ortega told a federation of Nicaraguan women's groups.
Ortega spoke shortly after Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, head of a national reconciliation commission formed under the so-called Guatemala accord, called on the government and U.S.-backed contra s to accept a mediator to negotiate a cease-fire dictated by the Aug. 7 peace agreement.
"At this time, both sides in the conflict--the counterrevolutionaries and the government--must be willing to accept a mediator" to end the war, Obando said.
Ortega has unilaterally offered a partial truce but steadfastly refuses to talk with the contras, claiming they are puppets of the Reagan Administration.
The contras, seeking the legitimacy that direct negotiations with Managua would bring, have insisted that they be party to any talks leading to a cease-fire.
"That (the war) is the principal pain our nation is suffering, and I say this without trying to undermine the accords signed in Guatemala, or the steps Nicaragua has taken to comply with the accord," Ortega said. "But we cannot fool ourselves. This war is with us every day."
Ortega also criticized the U.S. Congress for approving an additional $3.5 million in humanitarian aid for the contras fighting to overthrow the Marxist Sandinista government.
He said "the principal duty" of every Nicaraguan is to continue fighting against the "mercenary" rebels, but added, "We are also obliged to work intensely so that the Guatemala accord will be fulfilled.
"One goal does not contradict the other," he said. "But it is important that this hope for peace does not raise our expectations that peace is around the corner."
Obando said he discussed the possibility of a mediated cease-fire with Vice President Sergio Ramirez two weeks ago, but "at that time the chances did not seem good for a mediation."
The peace accord calls for a cease-fire to take effect Nov. 7, but differences over terms of the truce and how it should be negotiated threaten to stall the implementation date.
On Friday, contras in northern Matagalpa province shot down a Soviet-built helicopter flying a support mission for Sandinista troops, killing the pilot and co-pilot.