Nicaragua's peace process back on track

The first top-level peace talks between the Sandinista government and contra rebels are likely to be postponed again. Scheduled to begin today, the high-level political talks have been postponed. But the resumption yesterday of the negotiations on the temporary cease-fire arrangements could pave the way for the start of the broader peace talks.

A cease-fire accord, signed March 23 in Sapo'a, Nicaragua, stipulates that such technical issues as the size, location, and modus operandi of the seven cease-fire zones must be resolved before high-level political talks can begin.

The technical talks bogged down last Friday in Sapo'a over contra demands that they continue ``training'' their troops in the seven cease-fire zones already established in earlier talks.

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The two sides are still at loggerheads over the rebel demand that they be given complete freedom of movement in Managua when they meet for the high-level political negotiations. The contras want to meet with opposition groups and others.

The Nicaraguan government says the political talks must focus solely on a cease-fire pact, and the rebels will be allowed to do their politicking after one is signed.

One sign of progress is that a two-member contra preparatory commission - Roberto Ferrey, secretary of the rebel directorate, and David Estagen, a rebel legal advisor - arrived in Managua yesterday to iron out the obstacles blocking the high-level political talks, and once those are ironed out, the agenda.

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