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Nicaragua's Ortega denies responsibility for attacks on Catholic Church

by Press Association

Daniel Ortega, who said he is open to continuing talks mediated by the Roman Catholic Church, has denied that he controls paramilitary groups blamed for most of the killings.

In a recorded interview broadcast on Monday by Fox News, Mr Ortega said they are supported by his political opponents and foreign interests.

That is counter to what international organisations and Nicaraguan human rights groups have documented.

Last week, the Organisation of American States adopted a resolution condemning human rights abuses committed by Nicaraguan police and armed pro-government civilians.

"We were elected by the voters," Mr Ortega said. The next election is not scheduled until 2021.

"And then we'll have to see who will be voted in for the new administration."

The president also denied responsibility for attacks on the Catholic Church, whose facilities and clergy have faced aggression in recent weeks.

Last week, in a speech on the anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution, Mr Ortega accused Catholic bishops of working with coup plotters, saying that disqualified them as mediators.

But in the interview, the president said, "We invite the Catholic Church to continue with the dialogue so the dialogue can grow and develop in an open manner."

Nicaragua's bishops met on Monday behind closed doors to discuss how to restart talks between the government and opposition.

Meanwhile there were marches in Managua both against and in favour of the government.

It was the Day of the Student in Nicaragua, a remembrance for four students killed in Leon by the National Guard during a protest in 1959.

Monday's peaceful student march ended in front of the locked gates of the private Universidad Centroamericana, one of several universities that have been closed since protests erupted in mid-April against since cancelled cuts to the country's pension system.

In recent days Mr Ortega's government retook control of the last student-held campus and snuffed out public displays of resistance in the city of Masaya.

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