14 October 1998

                  Nicaragua seeks to solve indigenous land disputes

                   MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) -- Nicaraguan President Arnoldo
                  Aleman proposed groundbreaking legislation on Tuesday to solve ancient
                  conflicts over land occupied by indigenous peoples.

                  Aleman proposed a law that would give title to communal lands traditionally
                  settled by indigenous populations in the Atlantic region. He called the
                  proposal a starting point for national dialogue on the issue.

                  "After 506 years, indigenous peoples still have not won formal recognition of
                  their lands in various American nations," Aleman said at a news conference.
                  "It's not an easy problem to solve, but my government has made the decision
                  to take firm steps toward a just and timely territorial delimitation."

                  His announcement, which won praise from the World Bank and the
                  Organisation of American States, triggered the release of $15 million for
                  Nicaragua's Atlantic Biological Corridor Project, a conservation project
                  funded by the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank, the Canadian
                  and Dutch governments, among other institutions.

                  "This is an important step for securing a sustainable future for the people of
                  the Atlantic Coast and, indeed, for all Nicaraguans," Donna
                  Dowsett-Coirolo, director of the World Bank's Central America unit, said in
                  a letter to Aleman.

                  The hope is to clarify the rights of Nicaragua's indigenous populations to
                  traditional lands and to fairly resolve their claims, administration officials said.
                  Indigenous Indian and Afro-Caribbean inhabitants number some 185,000
                  along the Caribbean coast, about half the region's population.

                  Largely undeveloped and semi-autonomous, the Atlantic region has
                  remained isolated culturally, politically and economically from the more
                  urbanized Pacific coast, fuelling territorial conflict.

                  Aleman emphasised that his proposal should be a departure point for a
                  national dialogue and outlined four fundamental criteria for reform: the final
                  plan should promote national unity; the process should be open; the results
                  should reach beyond the Atlantic region to benefit the entire nation; the
                  process should be completed within six months.

                  Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.