At a meeting Monday in Tela, Honduras, the Central American leaders turned aside U.S. pressure to delay a starting date for contra demobilization until after Nicaragua's scheduled elections next Feb. 25. Instead they set Dec. 5 as the date for voluntary disbanding of the 10,000 to 12,000 contra guerrillas and their relatives encamped in Honduras near the Nicaraguan border.
"However, that being the case, we still support the process; we support demobilization," [Marlin Fitzwater] said. The United States is able to do that, he stressed, because Honduran President Jose Azcona, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and United Nations officials who are to help implement the accord all have made clear that the contras will not be forced to disband or to return to Nicaragua against their will.
Before Monday's meeting, the United States wanted the contras kept intact in their Honduran bases to ensure Nicaraguan compliance with commitments to democratic and electoral change. But, after the Tela meeting's rejection of this view, U.S. officials yesterday began arguing that if the Central Americans want their demobilization scheme to succeed, they must induce the Sandinistas to change their behavior.
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