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Costa Rica Marks 39 Years Without Army

December 02, 1987|From Reuters

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — This Central American nation marked 39 years without an army Tuesday, and House Speaker Jim Wright urged other countries to follow Costa Rica's "shining example" in seeking peace worldwide.

Wright, a Texas Democrat accused by the Reagan Administration of overstepping his role in foreign policy, said the hemisphere would owe Costa Rica its gratitude if a Central American peace plan authored by President Oscar Arias Sanchez is successful.

Earlier, both Arias and Wright welcomed a proposal by U.S.-backed Contras for a six-week cease-fire with Sandinista troops to begin next Tuesday but said they have not seen details of the plan.

Wright, heading a delegation of 12 Democratic and Republican congressmen, addressed a special session of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly in Spanish, saying:

"I have come to express to you--and through you to the people of this enlightened democracy--our profound gratitude for the shining example of your country."

Wright's office in the United States said an invitation for him to address the Costa Rican Assembly was made before the regional peace plan was signed in August. Arias addressed an informal joint session of Congress on Sept. 22.

Arias, speaking earlier at a joint news conference with Wright in a fortress converted into a museum when the armed forces were scrapped Dec. 1, 1948, said he is optimistic that the peace plan will be successful "now more than ever, as no one wants the wars in Central America to go on."

But Arias and Wright said they are not entirely satisfied with progress toward peace and urged efforts to speed up implementation of the plan.

Nicaraguan rebels, in a statement released here detailing a cease-fire proposal delivered in Nicaragua on Monday, called for a truce from Dec. 8 to Jan. 17 and demanded democratic reforms that Managua has said it will not implement until the United States and Honduras end their backing of the Contras.

"I have confidence that there is a will on both sides in getting a fair cease-fire," Wright said at the news conference. Last month, the Contras rejected a Sandinista cease-fire plan.

"Everything is possible," said Arias, who travels to Oslo this month to collect the Nobel Peace Prize for forging the Central American peace plan.

The Contras are to talk with Sandinista officials at a first-ever meeting in the Dominican Republic on Thursday.

Since the regional peace plan was signed, none of the three countries with guerrilla wars--Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador--have worked out cease-fires.

Arias said he welcomed Wright's presence despite controversy in Washington over his role in the peace process. Wright co-sponsored a peace plan with President Reagan but switched to the Central American plan once it was signed.

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