Nicaragua, Running Out of Oil, Appeals to 'Friends, Supporters'

From Times Wire Services

The Sandinista government said Tuesday it doesn't have the oil it needs for the rest of the year due to a sharp cutback in Soviet oil shipments earlier this year, and it issued an urgent appeal for help to relieve the shortage.

"The situation is critical," Vice President Sergio Ramirez told reporters at the presidential offices. He called on "the countries who are friends and supporters" for help.

Ramirez said that failure to obtain the oil would weaken efforts to reach peace with the U.S.-backed contras .

"We will be facing serious problems, and our peace efforts that are unfolding in Central America will be weakened," he said. "A country that does not even have its oil resources assured for the rest of the year cannot have the security and tranquility necessary to engage in a process of this magnitude."

Ramirez was referring to the regional peace plan President Daniel Ortega and four other Central American presidents signed Aug. 7 in Guatemala.

Ramirez said Nicaragua needs 1.6 million barrels of crude oil for the rest of the year.

The Soviet Union, which since 1985 has supplied virtually all of Nicaragua's oil, announced in May that it would cover only part of this year's requirements. The Soviets provided Nicaragua with about 4 million barrels in 1986.

In June, Sandinista officials said they had only enough oil for defense and other priorities and reduced the gasoline ration from 20 gallons to 18 gallons a month per car. They blamed the shortfall on a surge in consumption of gasoline and other oil products.

Ramirez traveled to Iraq, Yugoslavia, Greece and Algeria in search of supplies in June, while the president of the National Assembly, Carlos Nunez, went to Iran to make the same plea. But he said the efforts "have not provided the results we hoped for."

Ramirez said government officials will soon undertake new missions to Western Europe, the Middle East and Latin America to try to obtain petroleum.

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