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Peace Talks in El Salvador Face U.S. Opposition, Says Rebel Leader

September 29, 1987

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ A Salvadoran leftist leader says his fellow citizens want change and ″we have to deliver something″ following peace talks next week between rebels and the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government.

Reuben Zamora of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Front, the political organization of El Salvador’s leftist guerrillas, said in an interview that the rebels wanted to negotiate an end to their eight-year-old war.

″We need a political settlement to the war but the Reagan administation and important inside sectors of the military don’t want that,″ he said in an interview Sunday at his home in Managua, where he lives in exile.

The talks are part of a Central American peace plan signed by the presidents of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala. The plan calls for cease-fires, amnesties, and an end to foreign to rebel groups, among other items.

Reagan has called the plan ″flawed″ because it does not require an end to Soviet and Cuban involvement in Nicaragua. Reagan has said nothing publicly about how the peace plan applies to El Salvador.

Zamora, 45, and Guillermo Manuel Ungo, president of the front, are two of four rebel leaders representing the leftist movement at next Sunday’s talks in San Salvador with President Jose Napoleon Duarte and top officials of his U.S.-supported administration.

The other two representatives will be from the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a coalition of five guerrilla groups. Their names have not been announced.

Two meetings in 1984 ended in deadlock and another try last year was called off when both sides failed to agree on security issues.

A main stumbling block has been the rebels’ demand to be incorporated into the government and army. Duarte’s centrist Christian Democratic administration insists the rebels lay down their arms first.

Zamora said neither rebels nor government had changed their demands, but he said his side would be more flexible this time, adding, ″The way I sense the mood in El Salvador is that the people are more cautious, but are pressing for results and we have to deliver something.″

He said that ″after three years we can’t go into specifics,″ but added: ″It’s crazy to think of solving all the problems in a six-hour meeting.″

A joint communique released by the two pro-rebel groups in San Salvador said they ″accepted the meeting proposed by the government, hoping that it will serve to resolve effectively and with agility the operational aspects″ of further talks.

Julio Rey Prendes, Duarte’s communications minister, said Sunday he was not optimistic about the outcome of the talks. But Zamora said conditions in El Salvador have improved with the new peace initiative and that he is preparing to move back home before Nov. 7.

Zamora said he began thinking about returning in 1985 when his party, the Popular Social Christian Movement, began trying to develop broader-based support within El Salvador. The movement broke away from the Christian Democrats in 1980.

Once a loyal member of the Christian Democrats and a close friend of Duarte, Zamora fled El Salvador in 1980 when a right-wing death squad killed his brother Mario, who was attorney general at the time.

Zamora said he received no assurances for his personal safety and said his return will not signify a split in rebel ranks. But he expressed hope the Popular Social Christian Movement will be an alternative for Salvadorans to Duarte’s Christian Democrats.

He said that ″on one hand, people are disenchanted with the government, but on the other hand, many people are afraid to come out publicly″ for the rebel alliance because ″they fear they will be killed.″

Both sides distrust each other after eight years war, kidnappings and civilian slayings. Church and human rights groups put the death toll at more than 63,000, mostly civilians.

Asked if he would run for president in elections scheduled for 1989, he said, ″Before you can start to dream of that, there’s so much work to do.″

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