MANAGUA, Nicaragua — The Sandinista leadership said Thursday that it will not lift a state of emergency or broaden its amnesty law as long as it is under attack by U.S.-backed insurgents.
Although both steps are required by a Central American peace accord due to take effect Nov. 5, the Sandinista Assembly declared that it is under no obligation to comply unless the United States and other nations stop aiding the Contras.
"Our willingness to fulfill the agreement has been proven by the fact that we have taken some important steps before the deadline," a statement from Nicaragua's ruling party said. "But we cannot continue acting unilaterally when our genuine will for peace collides with the stubbornness of the imperialists."
The toughly worded statement was read at the close of an assembly meeting by Bayardo Arce, one of the most hawkish members of the nine-man Sandinista directorate. It signaled a stalling, if not a reversal, of the peace process launched by the signing of the five-nation agreement last Aug. 7.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Miguel d'Escoto had announced in San Jose, Costa Rica, that by Nov. 5, the Nicaraguan government would send to the National Assembly a bill to free "the vast majority" of the 4,000 or more political prisoners in its jails.
But Arce said that a general amnesty "cannot be granted while mercenary forces continue to kill our brothers."
He added that the 5 1/2-year-old wartime state of emergency, which curbs many civil liberties, "cannot be suspended while peasants, elderly people, women and children are treacherously shot at, while we still feel the aggression organized by the United States."
Carlos Huembes, president of the Democratic Coordinating Council, Nicaragua's principal internal opposition group, said the announcement "undermines the peace process" and "makes it even clearer that (the Sandinistas) do not intend to comply."
"It was easy for them to sign a peace agreement, but it is proving much harder to dismantle the repressive system that has kept them in power," Huembes said.
The opposition leader indicated that his rightist coalition of business, political and labor groups would withdraw from a "national dialogue" that the government has begun with internal opposition representatives under the peace accord.
The accord, signed by the presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, calls for negotiated cease-fires, a cutoff of outside aid to insurgents, amnesties for rebels who lay down their arms, and full press and political freedoms for unarmed opposition groups by Nov. 5.
Arce noted that Managua has moved toward compliance before the deadline by allowing Nicaragua's only opposition newspaper and the Roman Catholic radio station to reopen and declaring a unilateral cease-fire in four small, scattered fighting zones.
"Nicaragua has taken the lead in fulfilling the accord while the North American administration has completely sabotaged it," he said. Washington has done this, he added, by supplying new weapons to the Contras and vowing to seek another $270 million in aid for them from the U.S. Congress.
"Nicaragua has complied, is complying and will comply with the accord as long as there is simultaneous compliance by all parties," Arce said.
The 104-man Sandinista Assembly, a deliberative body headed by the all-powerful nine-man directorate, adopted its position after a daylong meeting behind closed doors. Reporters were invited in only to hear its closing statement.
President Daniel Ortega, who signed the Guatemala accord and announced most of the government concessions that have been undertaken as a result of it, listened as Arce pronounced the party's hard-line position. He made no comment afterward.
The deliberations came amid stepped-up military attacks by the contras and diplomatic pressure on Managua to negotiate a cease-fire with the exiled rebel leadership.
Among those urging such talks is President Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for drafting and promoting the peace plan. Responding to a direct appeal from Arias, Ortega said two weeks ago that he was reconsidering his refusal to talk with the Contras.
'Through No Mediator'
But Arce rejected that possibility in the most emphatic terms: "No way, nowhere and through no mediator will there be a political dialogue with the counterrevolutionary leadership." He repeated Managua's insistence that any peace talks have to be held with Washington, on grounds that the Contras are puppets of the U.S. government.
The Sandinista position appeared to bring the peace process to an impasse. The White House has indicated that it will delay its Contra aid request until after the five Central American presidents meet in January to review progress under their agreement.