Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro - her nation's first freely elected leader after years of dictators - blessed America Tuesday for helping reconstruct her country before a joint session of Congress.

Then she asked for even more help for at least another decade - saying it is needed to keep liberty and freedom alive in Central America."I would especially like to thank you, the representatives of the American public, for the generous assistance that you and the government of the United States have given to the Nicaraguan people," Chamorro said in Spanish with a translator at her side.

"Nicaragua needs extraordinary international cooperation. Our economy has been destroyed. Our productive capacity has remained dismantled. The country was totally de-capitalized" she said about years of civil war before her election.

She added, "We need steadfast financial assistance from the United States throughout this entire decade to reconstruct our economy, following the terrible damage incurred during the past decade.

"We urgently need foreign investment, credit and international cooperation in order to permit our people to develop their creative talents and to let us rise from the ashes left for us by past dictatorships."

Chamorro said that only with such U.S. help "will we be able to realize the dreams of our people - a people that have heroically suffered in order to strengthen democracy and liberty in our country."

Chamorro also noted she has cut the size of her country's military by two-thirds and plans more cuts; is working to unify Central America and allow free trade throughout it to improve regional economies; is not allowing arms to pass through her country to other armed groups; and is considering laws to improve liberty and relations with the United States.

She concluded saying, "God bless America."