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Arias Calls on Reagan to Halt All Aid to Contras as Obstacle to Peace

December 09, 1987|Reuters

OSLO — Costa Rican President and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez urged the United States today to end all aid, both military and civilian, to the right-wing Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Arias, in Norway to collect the prize on Thursday, told a news conference that President Reagan's support for the Contras is a major obstacle to the Central American peace plan for which he won the award.

"He (Reagan) knows very well that the Contras are the problem and not the solution," Arias said of the estimated 12,000 irregulars fighting to topple the left-wing Sandinista government of Nicaragua with U.S. encouragement.

An Excuse Not to Comply

"Any more money to the Contras will be used as an excuse not to comply with the peace accord. Let's not give anyone any more excuses not to comply," he said.

The 46-year-old president was awarded the $360,000 prize in October for inspiring and promoting a regional peace plan for Central America. The Nobel committee called it an outstanding contribution to the possible return of stability and peace to a region long torn by civil war.

With his wife sitting beside him and his 7-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter in the audience, Arias urged all armed factions in the region to lay down their arms for a Christmas truce.

"This is a priority. We can settle many problems if we have a cease-fire," he said.

Arias said Reagan's backing for the Contras gave the ruling Sandinistas good grounds to avoid liberalizing political life in their country.

"As long as there is aggression, the Sandinistas are going to use that aggression as an excuse, and in a way they are right, not to advance democratization," Arias said.

"The most urgent step should be a truce. I've been recommending a truce for Christmas until Jan. 15 but so far I haven't been able to succeed with my recommendation," he said.

The leaders of the five parties to the peace plan--Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador--are scheduled to meet in San Jose on Jan. 15 to review progress since August, when they signed the accord.

Arias will receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo University's Grand Hall in a solemn mid-morning ceremony attended by Norway's Royal Family.

Armed Forces Abolished

He said the award honored a country which unilaterally abolished its armed forces 39 years ago and which for a century has been a beacon of democracy in a region dominated by military dictatorships.

The decision to award him the prize last October was interpreted by some as a slap in the face for Reagan, who had made support for the Contras a centerpiece of his Central American policy.

Since then the Arias plan has had a rocky path. Last weekend, in the latest setback, mediated negotiations between the rebels and the Sandinistas broke down. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said there would be no cease-fire until Honduras stops helping the Contras.

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