Honduran reticence, Nicaraguan denials cloud `contra' issues. Contras too sensitive to discuss in Honduras

The Honduran government continues to deny the presence of anti-Nicaraguan contras in Honduran territory even after Honduran troops produced two alleged Sandinista prisoners late Wednesday. Although officials said Honduran forces captured the two Sandinista soldiers, this was the first indication that Honduras was involved in this week's clash between Nicaraguan and contra forces. Observers say it is more likely that the soldiers fell into contra hands and were then passed to the Honduran authorities.

This reticence to admit US-backed contra operations within Honduras indicates how sensitive the Honduran government is to the issue of contra presence.

As of Thursday, informed sources citing unconfirmed reports said 1,500 Nicaraguan solidiers were still trying to fight their way back into Nicaragua through a line of deployment of 1,000 contras.

An informed source, citing contra intelligence reports, says the interrogation of one of the Sandinista prisoners indicated that some Nicaraguan forces had been inside Honduras since late February. Armed Forces spokesman Jorge Arguello said entries in a prisoner's diary indicated he had been in Honduras several days before the alleged weekend attack. Informed sources indicated that the Honduran government was aware of this presence. But it appears that Honduras was not anxious to make a hasty response.

Nicaraguan violations of Honduras's sovergnity in the past, a European diplomat said, ``caused no really serious concern, because the government here knows that Nicaraguan operations are directed solely at the contras, not against the Honduran Army. It knows the Nicaraguans are not planning to march on Tegucigalpa.''

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