MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Former President Jimmy Carter Thursday arrived in Nicaragua and was received by officials of the leftist Sandinista government that came to power during his administration.
Carter, accompanied by his wife Rosalynn, arrived at Managua's Augusto Sandino airport, after leaving Costa Rica where he met with two rebel leaders fighting the Sandinista government.
Carter ended a 30-hour fact-finding Costa Rican tour by reiterating his support for Costa Rican neutrality and opposition to U.S. military backing for anti-Sandinista rebels.
'If supported by the influence and the strength of the U.S., the neutrality policy could be successful in bringing a peaceful solution to the Central American crisis.'
Nicaraguan Vice President Sergio Ramirez, filling in for President Daniel Ortega who is attending the Cuban Communist Party Congress in Havana, welcomed Carter.
'Mr. Carter's visit is a goodwill gesture that we appreciate,' Ramirez told reporters. 'It will serve to benefit the policy of peace that we are trying to carry out against the policy of war (of the Reagan administration).
'We will use our meetings with Carter to encourage a message of peace, which we hope he will take with him back to the United States.'
Carter and Ramirez met for about 45 minutes at an airport VIP lounge. Carter then departed by limousine for a dinner with U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Harry Bergold, also at the airport to receive the former president.
Outside the airport some 10 young Americans from Alaska, Oregon and Colorado, in Nicaragua for a brief study program, waved protest banners as Carter arrived. 'Contras violate human rights' and 'U.S. workers against the war,' the signs said.
The protesters said they were not demonstrating against Carter but 'in solidarity' with Nicaragua.
Carter is scheduled to meet with Sandinista officials and members of the opposition. He is scheduled to dine with Ortega Saturday night and attend mass on Sunday at the church run by Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, an outspoken government critic.
The Sandininstas came to power in 1979 after ousting dictator Anastasio Somoza. Carter's decision to suspend U.S. aid to Somoza was considered an important factor in allowing the Sandinistas to achieve victory.
In San Jose, Carter met with numerous Costa Rican political leaders and Nicaraguan dissidents to gather information on the Latin American debt crisis and political and military situation for a conference he plans to attend on the subjects in Atlanta, Ga. later this year.
'The purpose of my entire trip is to learn as much as possible, especially about the crisis in Central America,' Carter said.