Government negotiators expressed optimism Saturday that a permanent cease-fire could be signed as they sat down to a third day of talks to end the war with the U.S.-backed Contra rebels.

The two sides entered closed-door negotiations at 9:30 a.m. at the El Camino Real Hotel outside Managua. A government official said the meeting was to last until 4 p.m. but the talks aimed at ending the 8-year-old war could be extended if necessary.