December 2, 2008 / 5:02 AM / 11 years ago

Nicaragua asks U.S. for war reparations in aid row

MANAGUA (Reuters) - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, angry because the United States is rethinking an aid program, pressed Washington on Monday for billions of dollars in war reparations dating back to a 1980s civil war.

The International Court of Justice, based in the Hague, ordered the United States in 1986 to pay reparations to Nicaragua for training, arming and financing Contra rebels and mining Nicaraguan ports during a conflict that killed tens of thousands of people.

“The United States has not honored the judge’s order,” Ortega said on national television.

The World Court never set a figure for compensation but Sandinistas said Washington owed the country $17 billion. Washington at the time rejected the court’s jurisdiction.

Ortega led a Marxist government during the war, which ended shortly after he was voted out of power in 1990. He bounced back to the presidency in 2006.

The U.S. government said last week it is reviewing a $175 million program of aid to Nicaragua because of concerns about recent elections in which Ortega’s leftist Sandinista party won 105 of 146 municipal races. The opposition claimed the polls were rigged.

Nicaragua abandoned claims to war reparations in 1991 after saying it would drop its case in exchange for aid from the United States, but Washington’s recent balking over aid prompted Ortega to bring up the matter once again.

Ortega said on Monday the debt would now be about $45 billion if interest on it were factored in.

He said if Washington did not continue with the aid program, he would get the money from Venezuela, which is ruled by anti-U.S. President Hugo Chavez.

Reporting by Ivan Castro

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