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Nicaraguan rebels offer letup for election moves

Three major Nicaraguan rebel groups have offered to suspend their military operations if the Sandinist government moves toward elections and other democratic changes, a senior US official said Thursday.

The offer was made in Panama City meetings held with US special envoy Richard Stone, the official said.

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The high-level account of the meetings came amid reports from Managua that the Sandinist government would offer amnesty to prisoners charged with crimes against state security and also to rebels who agree to lay down their arms.

White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the Panama City meetings of officials from the four ''Contadora'' countries - Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama - were held to try to end differences among the various rebel groups and to determine if steps could be taken to fulfill the Sandinista promises to the Organization of American States.

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