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Nicaraguan Truce Talks Break Down

December 22, 1987|RICHARD BOUDREAUX | Times Staff Writer

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — A second round of talks aimed at a cease-fire in Nicaragua broke down early today after the rebel delegation refused to meet with two foreign negotiators named by the Sandinista government.

Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, the Nicaraguan Roman Catholic leader who is mediating the conflict, met separately with the warring parties and announced that the talks were suspended.

"The Nicaraguan Resistance says it will sit down with the foreign advisers only if a government representative who is Nicaraguan is also present," he told reporters. "The government says that its representatives will not sit face to face with the Contras.

"Disgracefully, that's the way things stand," he added. "We are at an impasse."

The deadlock was the second in the peace talks since they began Dec. 3 and came amid one of the largest offensives by the U.S.-backed rebels in six years of war.

The Sandinista government in Managua said rebel forces attacked the country's three most important mining centers Sunday and were still fighting in one of them. It also reported that a civilian cargo plane was downed Monday by rebel missile fire.

Obando, looking exhausted after seven hours of travel and five hours of talks at the Catholic archdiocese headquarters, refused to blame either side for the impasse. He said he hoped both sides would reconsider their positions.

"The talks have still not broken off," he said.

The cardinal met first Monday night with a Sandinista delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Hugo Tinoco, who brought along two foreigners named to represent the government in face-to-face talks.

They are Hans-Jurgen Wischnewski, a leader of West Germany's Social Democratic Party, and Paul S. Reichler, a Washington lawyer who has represented the Managua government for eight years.

Met With Contra Delegation

Obando met later with an all-Nicaraguan Contra delegation, who insisted that a Nicaraguan sit on the Sandinista side. The cardinal said he telephoned Tinoco, who then consulted with Managua and rejected the proposal.

"This is a Nicaraguan problem that ought to be settled between Nicaraguans," said Jaime Morales, the chief Contra negotiator. "We didn't come here to talk exclusively with a German and an American, however respectable they may be."

The Sandinistas agreed to hold indirect peace talks with the Contras after signing a Central American peace accord requiring negotiated settlements of the region's guerrilla wars. But they have refused to sit at the table with rebel representatives.

Managua's attempt to negotiate through foreigners baffled the Dominican hosts of the talks. "It's strange that a government that speaks so much of nationalism would rely on foreigners," a Dominican Republic Cabinet official said.

Asked by reporters earlier Monday to explain his reliance on foreigners, Tinoco repeated the Sandinista insistence that only though direct talks with Washington, which finances and trains the Contras, could his government settle the war.

'Director of Circus'

"That would be the real solution," he said. "Any (other talks) are marginal, secondary. We have to speak with the director of the circus, not with the circus employees."

The talks had been scheduled to last two days and were to focus largely on the technical military aspects of a cease-fire while leaving the underlying political causes of the war for later discussion.

Bosco Matamoros, a spokesman for the rebel negotiators, said the rebels' weekend offensive was part of a "political-military strategy" to force the Sandinistas to "open up the democratic process" through concessions in the talks.

Tinoco dismissed the attacks as a "propaganda exercise" of no military significance. He said his delegation was here to arrange the mechanical details of a cease-fire, not engage in political negotiations.

"The Contras and President Reagan are desperate for more money (from the U.S. Congress) so they can continue their war against Nicaragua," Tinoco said. "That's the objective of these attacks.

"This is an obstacle to our efforts, but we will keep trying to advance in the negotiation of a cease-fire," he added.

The rebels claimed to have killed or wounded 100 Sandinista soldiers in the attacks on Siuna, Rosita and Bonanza, in remote northeastern Nicaragua. The Defense Ministry in Managua reported 23 government soldiers and 24 Contras killed in Siuna and Rosita and 53 civilians wounded in Siuna.

Fighting Continues

Both sides said fighting continued Monday in Bonanza after rebel forces retreated from the two other gold, silver and copper mining towns.

Arriving here Monday, Obando called the bloodshed "lamentable" and said it could have been avoided by the acceptance of his truce proposal in the first round of negotiations here Dec. 3-4.

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