But Sen. Lugar Sees No Chance of U.S. Invasion : Air Strike in Nicaragua Called Possible

Times Staff Writer

Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that he could foresee conditions under which U.S. aircraft might have to launch a “surgical strike” against military targets in Nicaragua, but he ruled out any chance of a full-scale American invasion of the Marxist-led Central American country.

Interviewed on the ABC-TV program “This Week With David Brinkley,” Lugar said the Reagan Administration would probably move to eliminate any shipments of sophisticated Soviet aircraft, should they ever be delivered to Nicaragua.

“I suspect we would (eliminate the aircraft) and that’s a very different question than invasion and involvement of American troops--American forces somehow bogged down in the . . . jungle (of) Nicaragua,” Lugar said. “I think a surgical strike is a different thing than invasion.”

Nonetheless, Manuel Cordero, the deputy chief of mission at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, charged that the Reagan Administration is preparing for war by building and expanding military airstrips and staging military exercises in Honduras, Nicaragua’s northern neighbor.


“We expect that an invasion is an option that they have and that they want to exercise,” said Cordero. “The conditions might not be there yet, but they would want to exercise that and are creating the conditions for that.”

Rumors of Invasion

The Administration, which has long accused the Sandinista government of denying civil liberties to its own people while exporting revolution to the rest of Central America, has denied recent published reports suggesting that it is readying for a possible invasion.

Although officials in Managua frequently charge that American troops are on the verge of an attack, the invasion rumors surfaced in Washington last week as the Senate voted in favor of legislation to funnel $38 million in humanitarian aid to anti-Sandinista rebels, known as contras.


The House is expected to consider a $27-million contra aid package this week, and both Democrats and Republicans say the vote should be close.

In his remarks, Cordero denied reports that Nicaraguan troops have crossed into neighboring Honduras and Costa Rica in hot pursuit of rebels, but he claimed “we have the right to do so.”

Cordero insisted that Nicaragua has refrained from cross-border attacks to avoid giving the United States a pretext in which to step in militarily. “We think that the United States would use this type of incident as an excuse to try to promote a Gulf of Tonkin type of resolution,” Cordero said. He referred to the congressional resolution that was used to justify the U.S. military buildup in Vietnam.

Also on the program was Langhorne A. Motley, the assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, who defended the Administration’s Central America policies as designed to eliminate the need for any U.S. invasion.


Motley acknowledged that an invasion of Nicaragua would be unpopular with Americans, saying:

“They don’t want a second Cuba on the mainland in which they live--meaning subversion, destabilizing neighbors, expansion of Marxist-Leninism--and they don’t want a second Vietnam, the word picture being combat . . . troops bogged down in a foreign land without some clear purpose.”