President Daniel Ortega, expressing relief that President Reagan would soon be leaving office, Monday urged the next U.S. president to take steps to formalize relations with Nicaragua.

"Whoever wins - Bush or Dukakis will have to take account of the fact that the Contras have been beaten, and because of this - the new president must look for a pragmatic and realistic way to reach an understanding with Nicaragua," Ortega said.The U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Resistance, known as Contras, haswaged a 7-year-old war against Ortega's government. The war has cost over 50,000 lives. In February the Congress cut off military aid to the Contras.

Ortega spoke at a ceremony to pay tribute to those who performed acts of bravery during Hurricane Joan's onslaught on Nicaragua. Joan devastated large areas of the country two weeks ago in a week-long rampage across the Central American isthmus that left at least 116 dead and thousands homeless.

Ortega compared the effects of Reagan's administration on Nicaragua with those of Joan, saying "they (Reagan's eight years as president) have added up to death and destruction greater than any damage caused by the hurricane."

Ortega said, "We hope that whoever wins Tuesday's elections will look to formalize relations with Nicaragua and will not lay himself open to failure, like the failure of Reagan's policies.

"Dukakis has pledged that if he wins, he will not continue with aid to the Contras. We hope that he keeps this pledge," Ortega said.