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Respect vote, Ortega urges Washington

President Daniel Ortega has urged the United States to respect a Sandinista election victory and establish normal relations with the new government. At a news conference, Ortega ruled out the possibility that his ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front might lose Sunday's elections, the first open national poll in Nicaragua.

The U.S. policy of supporting a guerrilla war against his leftist government had failed, Ortega said, and the elections provided a chance for a new era in relations between the two countries.

"When the Sandinista Front triumphs, we expect that President Bush sticks to his word and normalizes relations," Ortega said. "We hope there will be a new chapter in relations between the United States and Nicaragua."

The leftist Sandinistas are competing against an alliance of right and center parties led by publisher Violeta Chamorro, who enjoys the backing of the U.S. administration.

Chamorro told reporters Thursday that she was convinced her National Opposition Alliance (UNO) would score an "enormous victory" Sunday.

Reiterating an often-stated policy, Ortega said the Sandinistas were prepared to discuss with the U.S. government any questions that affected U.S. security in Central America.

Public opinion polls on the elections have been contradictory. According to the latest survey conducted for UNO, the opposition will win 45.9 percent of the vote against the Sandinistas' 32.6 percent.

A day earlier, a survey arranged by the Washington Post and NBC-TV gave the Sandinistas 48 percent and UNO 32 percent.

Ortega on Thursday ruled out a coalition government, saying there was "no reason whatsoever" to consider such a prospect. UNO has said it would not include a Sandinista in its Cabinet.