SAN PEDRO DE LOVAGO, NICARAGUA, JUNE 27 -- Nicaraguan rebel commanders surrendered their weapons to President Violeta Chamorro today in a ceremony marking the end of a civil war that has left 30,000 people dead.
"Today the war ends," presidential spokesman Danilo Lacayo said.
Chamorro accepted the weapons from about 100 top rebel commanders led by Israel Galeano in San Pedro de Lovago, a town 100 miles east of the capital.
"It is an honor to say to the Nicaraguan people: mission accomplished. The struggle has been to establish a government of laws in this country," said Galeano, who uses the nom de guerre Commander Franklin.
The rebels, or contras, claim credit for forcing the former leftist Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega to call the Feb. 25 elections won by Chamorro.
The weapons turned in today were destroyed with blowtorches by troops from a United Nations force that has overseen the demobilization of more than 18,000 contras.
"I feel proud and happy as a Nicaraguan woman and mother because the boys have turned over their arms so Nicaragua can live in peace," said Chamorro.
The weapons included automatic rifles and a second batch of surface-to-air missiles. On Tuesday, Galeano handed over 62 U.S.-made Red Eye missiles to the head of the United Nations force, Gen. Agustin Quesada. "We hope this signifies that peace will endure in Nicaragua," Galeano told the Spanish general.
About 30,000 people have died and 25,000 have been wounded in nearly nine years of war between the U.S.-backed rebels and the Soviet-backed Sandinistas. The war turned Nicaragua, a nation of 3.6 million residents, into an arena of superpower conflict.
Galeano insisted the contras were never tools of U.S. policy, as many charged, and said they arose in reaction to Sandinista attempts to impose "foreign, totalitarian and expansionist ideologies" on Nicaragua.
Galeano gave up the first set of missiles in El Almendro, a town 190 miles southeast of Managua in Rio San Juan Province, where the contras have been promised land and a degree of local autonomy.
Galeano said the United States had given the contras more than 100 of the missiles during the last four years of the war. He claimed the rebels used them to down 35 government aircraft.