Divided Senate approves contra aid

A divided Senate approved a new six-month aid plan for Nicaragua's contra rebels Wednesday as attempts to forge a bipartisan approach collapsed amid charges of partisan politics. No Republicans joined the majority when the Senate voted 49 to 47 for a Democratic proposal to provide the contras with $27 million in nonlethal ``humanitarian'' aid after Oct. 1 and to set the stage for a second vote on the possible resumption of $16.3 million in stockpiled military aid later in the year. The aid package still faces opposition in the House, which must approve the measure, and it could be vetoed by President Reagan.

Senate majority leader Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia said yesterday that the White House has lost all credibility by brushing aside efforts to obtain a broad bipartisan consensus on contra aid.

Senate Republicans say they refused to vote for the Democratic plan because it did not represent a truly bipartisan approach and could not guarantee aid would reach the rebels inside Nicaragua.

Meanwhile, an estimated 1,000 contra rebels and Nicaraguan civilians arrived at the Nicaraguan-Honduran border this week, many suffering from hunger and disease, according to US diplomats and rebel leaders. Many of the refugees were barefoot because their boots had fallen apart during the long trek.

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