Honduran officials yesterday denied Nicaraguan allegations of Honduran involvement in armed clashes along the border between the two Central American countries, and charged instead that Nicaragua's Sandinista Army had penetrated a few miles into Honduran territory.
During a half-hour news conference here, President Roberto Suazo Cordoba, who met Wednesday with President Reagan, was repeatedly questioned about Nicaraguan charges that a long-awaited, full-scale invasion of Nicaragua by well-armed rightist exiles operating from bases inside Honduras, "has already begun."
Honduran Foreign Minister Edgardo Paz Barnica called the charges, which were published yesterday in the official Sandinista newspaper in Managua, "part of a misinformation campaign." He acknowledged that over the past two years many armed incidents have taken place along the border, but said these are the result of Nicaraguan provocation.
The Sandinista charges appeared in the newspaper Barricada in an interview with Luis Carrion, deputy interior minister. He said that "large groups of counterrevolutionaries possessing regular army weapons have invaded our territory." Reports out of Nicaragua over the last two weeks have indicated that a large-scale infiltration of anti-Sandinista troops began in the early days of July.
State Department officials here disputed the Sandinistas' assessment of the seriousness of the recent border events. A senior official acknowledged yesterday that U.S. intelligence shows military action in the border area, but said that U.S. missions in Central America "do not believe it can be characterized as an invasion in any sense."
The official denied that the United States was involved "in any way" in the border action.
Both Nicaraguan Deputy Interior Minister Carrion and Interior Minister Tomas Borge have spoken of what they call "repeated diversionary attacks" in recent days by well-armed counterrevolutionary commandos seeking to distract Sandinsta border patrols away from the area where armed rebel columns reportedly have been penetrating.
Carrion said the rebels, including former members of the National Guard of deposed Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza, are armed with sophisticated weapons, including U.S. M16 automatic rifles and grenade and rocket launchers.
The weapons "have been received through the intermediation of sectors of the Honduran Army and possibly the United States," Carrion charged. "We have learned of the arrival of boats in Puerto Lempira Honduras carrying U.S. arms directly from the United States."
In yesterday's Washington press conference, the Honduran minister of the presidency, Carlos Flores Facusse, said that, far from assisting the rightist Nicaraguans, Honduras has repeatedly proposed a peace initiative which calls, among other things, for an international peace-keeping force along the border area.
Foreign Minister Paz Barnica, said that "the only armed forces in Honduras are the Honduran armed forces," and later lamented that Nicaragua has refused to allow an international peace-keeping force on its territory.