MIAMI — Leaders of the Nicaraguan Contras said Monday that cease-fire talks scheduled to begin this week with the Nicaraguan government will have to be delayed until the mediator returns to Central America.
The negotiations were originally scheduled to start Wednesday in Guatemala, but Alfredo Cesar, one of the six directors of the Nicaraguan Resistance, said the talks could not resume without mediator Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo.
Cesar told reporters that the cardinal was traveling in Europe and that a new date for negotiations will have to be set once he returns on Feb. 18.
Despite the delay, rebel leaders have pledged to continue negotiating an end to their 6-year-old civil war against the leftist Sandinista government, Cesar added.
"We remain committed to the process of achieving peace and democratization in Nicaragua," he said.
The two sides held their first round of face-to-face talks in Costa Rica late last month, but quickly adjourned to await a decision by the U.S. Congress on Contra aid.
Contra leaders also said they are launching a drive for private, non-lethal aid in the wake of a U.S. House of Representatives vote last Wednesday rejecting a $36.25-million package of non-lethal and military aid.
Adolfo Calero, a director of the rebel umbrella group, told reporters the leadership is also considering ways to collect new military aid, including possible appeals to private citizens and governments of other countries.
o Cesar said money from private American sources is already flowing into the Contra offices, including a $500 personal check from Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, a Republican presidential candidate.
Calero said the directors planned to meet this week with retired Gen. John K. Singlaub, a longtime supporter, to discuss the prospects for selling "war bonds" to raise funds. Rebel leaders said the contributions are tax-deductible and will be used for non-lethal purposes to abide by U.S. neutrality laws.