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Nicaragua Names American, West German as Truce Negotiators

December 20, 1987|RICHARD BOUDREAUX | Times Staff Writer

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — The Sandinista government has named an American lawyer and a seasoned West German negotiator to represent it in cease-fire talks with U.S.-backed Contras.

The negotiations are scheduled Monday and Tuesday in the Dominican Republic under the mediation of Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, Nicaragua's Roman Catholic primate.

Obando said last week that representatives of both sides would meet face to face to negotiate the technical steps needed to achieve a cease-fire. In addition, he said, each side would meet separately with him to resolve a deadlock over political issues underlying the guerrilla war.

President Daniel Ortega announced late Friday that the government will be represented in the technical talks by Paul S. Reichler, its Washington lawyer and lobbyist, and Hans-Jurgen Wischnewski, a prominent Social Democratic member of the West German Parliament.

Ortega gave no reason for naming foreigners. It appeared to be a face-saving move to satisfy the cardinal's request for direct negotiations while keeping the Sandinista vow never to sit at the same table with rebel representatives.

Bosco Matamoros, a rebel spokesman, said the rebel delegation is entirely Nicaraguan.

"We will negotiate with (Soviet leader Mikhail S.) Gorbachev or (Cuban leader) Fidel Castro or whoever wants to represent the Sandinistas," he said, "but we don't understand why they need foreigners to help solve a national conflict."

Reichler confirmed in a telephone interview Saturday that he and Wischnewski will travel this weekend to Santo Domingo to join a Sandinista delegation preparing for the talks.

"Since I have represented the Sandinista government in legal matters since 1979, they have confidence in me to help produce a viable cease-fire," Reichler said. "I will be in close contact with the Sandinista delegation to receive instructions and exchange ideas."

Reichler, who said he had no experience in cease-fire talks, was part of the legal team that tried a Nicaraguan case against the Reagan Administration in the World Court. The court held in June, 1986, that the Administration had broken international law and violated Nicaraguan sovereignty by aiding the Contras.

Wischnewski was an official in the West German government of former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and has close contacts with the Sandinista government.

Nicaraguan Contra negotiators will be led by Jaime Morales, a businessman and academic, who negotiated the release of a kidnaped banker in Honduras for a $3-million ransom in 1981. He will be assisted in the technical talks by three rebel field commanders, Jose Filadelfo Rivas, Luis Fley and Walter Calderon.

The two sides have offered widely divergent cease-fire proposals. The Sandinistas want rebel troops to gather in three cease-fire zones and surrender their weapons. Rebel leaders propose freezing current positions of the Sandinista army and the guerrilla forces until the government meets specific demands to make the country more democratic. The Sandinistas, however, refuse to make any political concessions.

Obando is trying to break the deadlock by treating military and political issues in separate talks.

Ortega said Friday that he also had invited Roger Fisher, a Harvard Law School professor and specialist in conflict resolution, to take part in the talks.

Fisher could not be reached for comment Saturday on his role in the negotiations. But Reichler said that Fisher had been asked by the Sandinistas to be available to Obando or the rebel delegation if they needed expert help.

Sandinista officials said that the government sought the involvement of independent foreigners in the talks so that the latter could certify to the U.S. Congress that Managua is negotiating in good faith, something Managua believes will reduce the chances of the Contras getting new U.S. funding.

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