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.

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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