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U.S. envoy downplays Nicaragua-Russian relations

September 19, 2008

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan yesterday downplayed Nicaragua´s strengthening of relations with Russia despite Washington´s strong criticism of recent Russian aggression.

“Nicaragua is a sovereign country and it can invite whoever it wants (to visit),” Callahan said when asked about the high-ranking Russian delegation visiting Managua at the invitation of President Daniel Ortega.

Callahan noted that the United States, too, has invited the members of the Russian government to visit Washington, D.C. in past months, and that Nicaragua has the right to establish relations with whatever countries it wants.

But, the ambassador added, “We are also a sovereign country and we are going to make our positions known; and they aren´t always going to be the same as Nicaragua´s positions.”

Ortega met Wednesday night with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who greeted Ortega and a group of Sandinista supporters in Spanish in a rally held at a Managua hotel.

Speaking wistfully of Nicaragua´s relations with the erstwhile Soviet Union in the 1980s, Ortega hailed Russia for “illuminating the planet” with its fight for “peace and justice.”

Both Ortega and Sechin lamented that historical factors ended the tight relationship that existed between Soviet and Sandinista governments in the 1980s and pledged to strengthen those historic ties.

Ortega has already taken the first step to rekindle the relationship by officially recognizing the independence of the pro-Russian rebel Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Nicaragua is the only country in the world other than Russia to recognize the separatist nations – a move that prompted U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez to cancel his scheduled trip to Nicaragua next week.

The United States has been very critical of Russia´s recent invasion of Georgia last month – a move Ortega defends. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday said Russia is on a path toward “isolation and irrelevance,” according to AP wire reports.

Read today´s Nica Times print edition for more on this story.

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