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US warns nicaraguans against coup { September 9 2005 }

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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
US warns Nicaraguans against coup

Nicaragua faces isolation if opposition forces depose President Enrique Bolanos, a top US diplomat has warned.
The assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere accused some elements of "behaving very, very irresponsibly".

Roger Noriega's warning comes amid a mounting crisis, which has seen Mr Bolanos locked in a struggle with his opponents in congress and the courts.

Sandinistas and members of Mr Bolanos Liberal Party are trying to strip the

president of his powers.

The legislators have passed constitutional reforms limiting the president's power, despite a ruling by the Central American Court of Justice which declared them inapplicable.

'Judicial mugging'

Mr Noriega said some people were putting "the personal interests of a couple of leaders ahead of the national interest".

He also condemned an attempt by congress to remove the president's immunity from prosecution to face charges over alleged misuse of electoral funds.

"If there were this kind of judicial mugging of President Bolanos I think the [inter-American] community would respond very, very forcibly," Mr Noriega said.

President Bolanos - who took office in 2002 after a landslide victory over Sandinista leader and former President Daniel Ortega - has said he will view any attempt to impeach him as a coup.

Members of the ruling Liberal Party turned against Mr Bolanos after his government decided to prosecute former President Arnoldo Aleman for corruption.

Aleman is serving a 20-year sentence for fraud and money-laundering, but he still commands the loyalty of many of his party's legislators.

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