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Foes of Contra Aid Back Off Fund Bill Fight

November 05, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — House Democratic opponents of aid to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels backed off from an impending fight over the issue today, fearing a possible loss might send negative signals as the deadline arrived for implementation of a five-nation peace agreement in Central America.

The issue had been raised as the House took up a stopgap money bill to keep the government running past Tuesday. The legislation, passed on a vote of 256 to 159, included $3.2 million in non-lethal aid for the Contras.

Democrats, led by Rep. David E. Bonior of Michigan, had planned to ask on the House floor for tight restrictions to prevent the CIA from delivering the aid through airdrops to rebel troops inside Nicaragua. Instead, the aid should be routed through an international relief agency such as the Red Cross, Democrats said.

Bonior Backs Off

"You threaten to blow up this whole (peace) process," without such a restriction, Bonior argued.

But Republicans threatened to mount a major fight over the Bonior amendment, and Bonior decided not to press the issue, fearing that it could prompt members on the extreme left and right to oppose the spending measure and defeat it. Other lawmakers said defeat of the amendment might discourage Central American leaders seeking a cutoff of outside aid.

House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) said he had spoken today with Nicaragua's ambassador to the United States, Carlos Tunnermann, who told him there would be no objection to a further aid appropriation.

"The point at issue is really military aid, and there is none in this bill," Wright said.

There were conflicting reports, meanwhile, about Administration intent to forward to Congress a new request for $30 million in non-lethal Contra aid. Republican congressional sources said such a request was expected, but White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater today said no such decision had been made.

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