Draftees in the Sandinista-controlled army are deserting their ranks and the military is reportedly hiding arms ahead of next month's swearing in of an opposition government.

Sandinista officials on Thursday acknowledged the desertions but denied weapons and ammunition were being squirreled away.Also Thursday, President Daniel Ortega called on the United States to resume aid on the day he steps down to the opposition coalition that upset his leftist party in Sunday's election.

"The best that could happen would be for the Contras (rebel guerrillas) to be demobilized by April 25 and for the United States to lift the embargo and send the aid it has promised starting that day," Ortega told Nicaraguan journalists.

Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who is due to succeed Ortega as president on April 25, has echoed Ortega's call for the Contras to lay down their weapons.

Her United National Opposition (UNO) and Ortega's Sandinistas are beginning to discuss the process of transition. The Sandinistas staked out a tough set of positions Tuesday, including the dismantling of the U.S.-supported Contra rebels from their Honduran jungle camps.