WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration said Monday that the Contras, by beginning a new offensive just days before the scheduled start of a Christmas truce, are pursuing a U.S.-backed strategy of keeping military pressure on the Nicaraguan government to force the leftist regime into serious peace talks.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the rebel assault, on Nicaragua's remote gold and silver mining district, was "very encouraging."
When asked if the military action was appropriate at a time when high-level representatives of the Contras and the leftist Sandinista regime were in Santo Domingo for indirect negotiations over a cease-fire in the six-year-old civil war, Fitzwater replied: "Absolutely. The purpose of the resistance, from our point of view, is to keep pressure on the Sandinistas to negotiate."
State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said the attack "is in keeping with the resistance's strategy to bring military pressure to bear on the Sandinistas while trying to negotiate a political settlement."
"As they have made clear, they will not unilaterally suspend military operations. To do so would remove the incentive for the Sandinistas to negotiate," Oakley said.