Envoy Arrives; Nicaragua Attacks Mission
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ U.S. special envoy Philip Habib repeated Wednesday the Reagan administration’ s offer to resume negotiations with Nicaragua if the Sandinistas agree to talk with U.S.-backed rebels fighting to oust their government.
″If the Sandinistas were to undertake a dialogue with the United Nicaraguan opposition, the U.S. at the same time would resume bilateral discussions with the government of Nicaragua,″ Habib told reporters waiting outside the presidential palace.
Habib, a veteran trouble-shooter for the Reagan administration, met with President Jose Napoleon Duarte for almost two hours on his first day of a Central American fact-finding trip. Habib will also visit Honduras and Guatemala.
U.S. and Nicaraguan negotiators held nine rounds of talks in the Pacific port of Manzanillo, Mexico, from June 1984 through January 1985. The State Department then suspended the talks indefinitely, saying no substantive progress had been made.
Since then, the peace-seeking Contadora group, made up of Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama, has repeatedly urged the Reagan administration to resume direct negotiations. The administration has said it would do so only if Nicaragua opened talks with the U.S.-backed rebels, known as Contras.
Habib’s announcement followed a proposal made last week by Duarte, whose own government has been battling leftist guerrillas in a 6-year-long civil war.
Duarte had said he would meet with his nation’s rebels if Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega would hold talks with the Contras.
Habib said Duarte’s proposal ″recognizes the conflicts of the region are internal, that they are linked by the fact that the Sandinistas support the Salvadoran guerrillas.″
The proposal was rejected by Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, which frequently has said it would only speak with Reagan.
The Reagan administration accuses the leftist Nicaraguan government of exporting revolution and aiding Central American rebels with arms.
State Department deputy spokesman Charles Redman said in Washington Habib will visit Honduras and Guatemala and will meet Costa Rican President-elec t Oscar Arias during his sto in Guatemala. The itinerary pointedly excludes Nicaragua.
Earlier Wednesday in Managua, Ortega told reporters after meeting Guatemala’s Vice President Roberto Carpio Nicolle: ″He (Reagan) is trying to impress on international public opinion that he is interested in a negotiated solution, but what he really wants to do is complement his policy of war and terrorism against Nicaragua.″
Nicolle visited Managua briefly to reiterate an invitation to Ortega to attend a meeting of Central American presidents in Guatemala sometime in May. Ortega said he would attend the summit.
Julio Adolfo Rey Prendes, a Cabinet minister and Duarte’s closest adviser, told The Associated Press that Habib will discuss the Salvadoran president’s peace proposal made last week.
He said Habib also would solicit support for Reagan’s troubled Congressional request for $100 million in military aid to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, who are fighting to overthrow their country’s leftist Sandinista government. In the past, Duarte has not given a nod to funding for the rebels.
Reagan, who is trying to bolster support for his case, said critics who claim the United States is not interested in a negotiated settlement ″are making ridiculous noises.″
Last week, Duarte said he would meet with the rebels battling his U.S.-supported government, if Ortega would hold talks with the Contras. Nicaragua rejected the proposal.
But Salvadoran rebel leaders jumped at Duarte’s proposal, saying they have been willing for a long time to enter the country to start the talks.
″We are ready to talk and ready to come,″ said Ruben Zamora, one of the leaders of the Democratic Revolutionary Front, the political arm of an umbrella group of five guerrilla armies which is known as the Farabundi Marti National Liberation Front.
Duarte, according to Rey Prendes, said the rebels would be imprisoned if they attempted to come into El Salvador without an official invitation.
″If they come they will be submitted to the judges,″ the presidential adviser said.
About 60,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have been killed in the six-year-old civil war that has plagued the country.