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Tape Said To Show Nicaraguan Link To Salvadoran Left

November 21, 1989 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. contention that Nicaragua supports the Salvadoran insurgency has been reinforced by a smuggled videotape purporting to show guerrilla leaders attending a weapons training exercise inside Nicaragua, U.S. officials said Monday.

Officials who showed the tape to reporters said three rebels who appear in the presentation are top guerrilla commanders, including Joaquin Villalobos, generally regarded as the most important figure in the insurgent hierarchy.

Informed of the U.S. allegations, Nicaraguan Vice Foreign Minister Victor Hugo Tinoco denied that the tape was authentic and called it a ″propaganda show of the State Department.″

Tinoco is in Washington for cease-fire negotiations with Nicaragua’s Contra rebels. The U.S. officials, who insisted on anonymity, said the light artillery and anti-aircraft weapons shown have been used extensively by the Salvadoran rebels during recent fighting but had not been seen before this spring.

The tape is believed to have been made in either May or June of this year and was turned over to American authorities by a person who wished to remain anonymous. It was not known who made the tape or why.

The officials said some of the same types of weapons shown on the tape were used by guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, in an October 30 attack on Salvadoran Army headquarters and the Nov. 11 attacks on the private and official residences of Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani.

U.S. analysts concluded that the site of the taping was the El Tempisque training site north of Managua because of the terrain and the presence of Soviet weapons found nowhere else in Latin America besides Cuba.

The tape was described by a U.S. official as ″graphic confirmation″ of the Sandinista role in providing weapons training to the FMLN.

Nicaraguan officials said there may have been some unauthorized operations carried out by Sandinista officials in support of the FMLN in the early 1980s but that these activities have long since stopped.

President Daniel Ortega has said repeatedly Nicaraguan territory will not be used to subvert neighboring countries.

The alleged Sandinista support, dating back almost a decade, is a principal reason for the U.S. decision to provide generous military support for the Salvadoran government.

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As further evidence of Nicaraguan cooperation with the FMLN, the administration has cited the Oct. 18 capture of large quantities of weapons alleged to have been earmarked by the Sandinistas for the FMLN. The arms were found by Honduran security guards aboard a truck near the border with Nicaragua.