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Ortega Insists Washington Be Peace Talks Site

November 17, 1987|DAN WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega ended a surprise three-day visit here Monday with a plea to his hosts for economic aid and by insisting that future talks with U.S.-backed Nicaraguan rebels be held in Washington.

Ortega met with Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid and asked that a formula be found to permit the resumption of Mexican oil deliveries to cash-strapped Nicaragua. De la Madrid suspended most oil sales to Nicaragua in 1985 because Nicaragua failed to make payments on a $500-million debt to Mexico.

Since then, the Marxist-led nation has relied mainly on the Soviet Union for oil but has recently been trying to diversify its sources in the wake of reported Soviet reluctance to increase deliveries.

A source close to De la Madrid said that although the Mexican government will study ways to sell oil once again to Nicaragua, Mexico is "not in a position to give away" oil. "Nicaragua has no money," the Mexican official said.

The source added that Ortega asked De la Madrid to encourage other Latin American governments to help Nicaragua pay its past oil debts. The Nicaraguan government has been seeking Latin aid not only to fill practical needs but as a show of political support in the hemisphere. The presidents of eight Latin American governments are scheduled to meet at the end of November in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco.

En Route Home

Ortega arrived in Mexico City on Saturday en route home from Washington, where he spent last week arguing his case against U.S. policy in Central America to U.S. congressmen, the Organization of American States and the American public via the news media. He also opened indirect cease-fire talks with the Contras, using Nicaraguan Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo as a mediator.

The willingness to talk with the Contras was considered an important step in fulfilling terms of a Central American peace treaty that was signed Aug. 7 by Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.

At his Monday press conference, Ortega said he had informed De la Madrid of steps that Nicaragua has taken to abide by terms of the treaty. Mexico is one of eight Latin American countries designated to verify compliance with the accords.

The terms include steps toward democratization in all of the countries, a cease-fire between governments and rebels in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua and the end of outside economic aid to insurgents in the region.

Ortega's insistence that cease-fire talks with the Contras be held in Washington puts him at odds with the rebels fighting his government. The Contras want the talks held either in Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, or in San Jose, Costa Rica, where some of the Contra political leadership live. The tempest reflects the importance each side gives to appearances as jockeying over terms of the peace plan begins in earnest.

"Our position is that the talks be held in Washington, because it is in the United States where the policy against Nicaragua is centered," Ortega said.

Ortega added that the presence of Contra leaders in Costa Rica violates the letter of the peace accords because giving them refuge constitutes support for an insurgent movement. He called on Costa Rica to expel the Contras. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for putting together the peace package.

When asked if he had expelled, or would soon expel, rebel leaders from El Salvador known to live in Nicaragua, Ortega said that such a step must be taken by all Central American nations at once.

Comments on Wright Flap

Ortega injected himself into a budding quarrel between President Reagan and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Jim Wright, over Wright's willingness last week to participate in talks with Ortega. The Nicaraguan leader said that he had called on Wright because the Texas Democrat had authored a peace proposal that, at one time, was backed by Reagan himself.

"It was natural that I look up those two (Wright and Reagan). But Reagan would not receive me," Ortega said.

Mexican officials were unprepared for Ortega's unscheduled visit. De la Madrid was in Acapulco attending a film festival over the weekend and only arrived in Mexico City on Sunday night.

To pass time while waiting for De la Madrid, Ortega amused himself and his family by visiting an amusement park, a floating garden and a well-known plaza.

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