MIAMI (AP) _ The federal government said Monday night it would revoke Elian Gonzalez's permission to remain in the United States by Thursday unless his Miami relatives agree to promise to surrender the boy if they lose their court fight.

``Without a specific written commitment ... we have no choice but to move forward with the termination of Elian's parole as of Thursday, March 30, 2000, at 9:00 a.m,'' the government said in a letter to the attorneys representing the relatives.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service said the relatives have failed to make that commitment, which is required under federal law as a condition of Elian's parole.

Government officials said they called the relatives to a meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the ramifications of the termination and an orderly return of the boy to his father in Cuba. The department said it was not necessary to bring the 6-year-old Cuban boy but that Lazaro Gonzalez, the boy's great-uncle, should attend.

There was no reaction Elian's Miami relatives or from the crowd of about 50 people gathered outside the boy's Little Havana home. A family spokesman said lawyers were discussing the letter, and they could not be reached for comment.

Earlier, Linda Osberg-Braun, an attorney for Elian's Miami relatives, insisted the family has complied with the government's demands.

``In light of our cooperation, we request that your officials cease their constant threats to revoke Elian's parole,'' the attorneys wrote in a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno.

Reno has demanded that the relatives pursue any court appeals rapidly and promise to surrender Elian for return to his father in Cuba if they lose.

Earlier Monday, an appellate judge granted requests by the relatives and the Justice Department for an expedited appeal, giving the relatives' attorneys several days more to prepare their arguments than the government would have preferred.

But the relatives had not addressed the government's other demand.

``That being so, the INS is under no obligation to maintain the current arrangement,'' the government wrote in response, referring to the deal giving Elian's great-uncle custody in the meantime.

The government has made it clear it would not want to do anything to traumatize the boy or provoke Miami's large Cuban community.

A small group had spilled into the streets outside the relatives' home earlier Monday, waving a large Cuban flag but did not block traffic. Someone put a 15-foot banner in front of the house with a drawing of Elian and a message: ``I just want to live in freedom.''

Many of the protesters responded to a call by the Democracy Movement, an anti-Castro group, to be prepared to form a human chain around the home if the government tries to remove the child and send him back to his father.

``There are a lot of people who aren't willing to kill but are willing to die only for the child's rights,'' said Ramon Saul Sanchez, head of the Democracy Movement.

Olga Scott, 50, arrived from Houston Monday to join the protest. ``Over our dead bodies, they will not take him,'' she said.

In an apparent effort to increase American support for their battle to keep Elian, the child's relatives last week allowed ABC's Diane Sawyer to spend two days with Elian. The result was his first extended interview. The first of three segments aired Monday on ``Good Morning America.''

In the segment broadcast Monday, Elian was not asked whether he wants to return to Cuba. He described how the boat that was bringing him and his mother from Cuba sank, and he said he doesn't believe his mother is dead.

Elian drew crayon pictures of the voyage in which his mother and 10 other people drowned. He was found clinging to an inner tube on Thanksgiving and placed with his relatives in Miami.

``My mother is not in heaven, not lost,'' he said in Spanish through his cousin Marisleysis Gonzalez. ``She must have been picked up here in Miami somewhere. She must have lost her memory, and just doesn't know I'm here.''

Marisleysis Gonzalez gently reminded him that he knows what really happened to his mother, and he continued gazing downward.

Elian remained home Monday, and family spokesman Armando Gutierrez said he won't return to school out of fears that Cuba might try to force him back to the communist island. On Monday, Castro mocked Cuban exiles who said they feared he would launch an armed raid to repatriate the boy.

Teacher Obdulia Copa left the boy's home at the end of the school day and confirmed that she will be teaching the child at home for the rest of the week and possibly until the custody dispute is resolved.

The family wants the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to overturn a federal judge's ruling last week affirming the Immigration and Naturalization Service's decision to return Elian to Cuba. The family asked that the case get a speeded-up handling.

The court responded by asking for the family to file briefs by April 10 and for the government to respond by April 24. Any response to the government by Elian's relatives must be filed by May 1. The court will not grant any extensions, said Robert Phelps, chief deputy clerk. Oral arguments in Atlanta are set for the week of May 8.

In a rare move, the family allowed a few reporters inside the house to show them an image that had appeared in an oval mirror. Tears flowed down the cheeks of Lazaro Gonzalez, Elian's great-uncle, as he stared at a form he claimed was the Virgin Mary.


On the Net:

Judge's decision last week:

INS home page:

Miami relatives:

Coverage by Cuban newspaper Granma:

ABC News: