U.S. Arms Aid Needed Soon, Contras Tell Reagan

From Times Wire Services

President Reagan met Wednesday with three political leaders of the contras, who told him that their forces seeking to overthrow Nicaragua's government will suffer "high losses" if they do not receive arms soon.

"We need the military aid desperately," said Alfonso Robelo, one of three directors of the United Nicaraguan Opposition, the U.S.-backed umbrella group that is fighting the leftist Sandinista government of Managua.

He added that the contras are prepared to battle the Sandinistas on their own, but that without U.S. money, "in the future we may face that what is going to be spent in Nicaragua is U.S. money as well as U.S. blood."

Along with fellow contra leaders Arturo Cruz and Adolfo Calero, Robelo spent about 15 minutes with Reagan, Vice President George Bush and other Administration officials. They also held a briefing at the White House.

Reagan was supportive of the rebels, according to White House spokesman Larry Speakes. The meeting was his second with them in three months.

Speakes also said that Reagan pledged to help the rebels and congratulated them on recent steps they said they have taken to broaden their democratic base and refine their political program.

The three rebel chiefs said they stressed their need for military and economic aid. The Administration is asking Congress to approve $100 million in direct combat assistance and in logistical aid. A vote on that frequently derailed proposal is expected in the House next week.

Administration strategists, who for weeks have spoken optimistically of a turning tide in Congress on the issue, now concede that Reagan has not changed enough minds or twisted enough arms to win funds in the House for the U.S.-trained force.

On Wednesday, the Nicaraguan rebel visitors sought to remove obstacles to the aid by underscoring their desire for a political settlement and by working to assure Congress that $27 million in non-combat aid appropriated last year went for its intended purposes.

Cruz said that the rebels welcome a congressional inquiry and have taken steps to strengthen their mechanisms for disbursing and accounting for U.S. aid.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said that U.S. embassies in Central America are investigating congressional auditors' charges that aid money has been diverted or misspent.

However, Kalb said that the department declined an invitation from a House subcommittee to send a top official to testify today on the findings by the General Accounting Office, released last week.

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