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Secretary Reaffirms U.S. Ties With Nicaragua's Leaders

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

MANAGUA, Nicaragua, Nov. 13, 2004 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld thanked Nicaraguas leader for his strong support for security and cooperation in the Americans and for being a strong and resolute partner in the global struggle against terrorism.

Speaking with President Enrique Bolanos Geyer at a joint press conference Nov. 12, the secretary also praised Nicaragua's efforts to eradicate corruption and promised that the United States would continue to support those efforts.

Rumsfeld said bilateral meetings with Geyer and Nicaraguan Defense Minister Jose Adam Guerra helped reaffirm the two countries' common commitment to improved security cooperation in Central America. The meetings included discussions about "the nexus of terror and drugs and organized crime" that threatens the region, he said.

The secretary said Nicaragua has done "a commendable job" of combating narcoterrorism, particularly along the Atlantic Coast. "I am told that the Nicaraguan military has confiscated over 6,000 kilograms of cocaine this year alone," Rumsfeld said. "We applaud and encourage these efforts."

Rumsfeld said he met with Guerra earlier in the day and thanked him "for the fine service of the Nicaraguan military in Iraq in demining and humanitarian work." He noted that his visit was not meant to pressure Nicaragua to return its troops to Iraq, saying he believes that in the global war on terror, "every country must do what is in its best interest and within its capability."

He said the work Nicaraguan troops performed in Iraq helped make it "a better place for the Iraqi people."

Geyer praised Rumsfeld as "an important international strategist in the struggle against terrorism" and said the bilateral meetings reaffirmed the two countries' mutual commitment to "an international order in which the values of democracy and freedom prevail."

An important security consideration between the United States and Nicaragua involves its stockpile of man-portable air defense systems, or SAM-7s. Nicaragua had about 2,000 of these shoulder-fired missiles left over from the Sandinista regime, but has destroyed about 666 and has vowed to destroy them all.

Geyer told reporters the destruction is proceeding according to the country's plan and should take another year and a half. He said it is part of a plan he presented to his fellow Central American presidents aimed at creating a "reasonable balance of defense forces" in the region.

Geyer insisted that Nicaragua is destroying the missiles "of its sovereign will" and does not seek compensation from the United States to do so, as some have speculated.

"We seek no compensation for destroying the missiles," Geyer said. "It is in Nicaragua's best interest to do so .Nicaragua is doing it in exchange for nothing other than the greater peace and tranquility of Central America and Nicaragua."

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