GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ President Alvaro Arzu has appealed for national reconciliation and asked Guatemalans to forgive the state for its role in the deaths, pain and deprivation they suffered during nearly four decades of civil war.

``In the name of the state, I ask forgiveness,'' Arzu said Tuesday at a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the signing of a U.N.-brokered peace pact that ended 36 years of civil war. ``I ask all Guatemalans to forgive one another ... and together join the pilgrimage toward the goal of national reconciliation.''

Arzu spoke Tuesday in Santa Cruz, the capital of northwestern Quiche province. Located about 50 miles from Guatemala City, the province was one of the regions hardest hit by the conflict. Arzu spoke to a crowd in the town's municipal stadium, and his words were broadcast nationwide.

More than 170,000 people in Guatemala were killed in the fighting between leftist guerrillas seeking power and social change and a succession of rightist military-dominated governments. Another 30,000 are missing.

Many of those killed were tortured or executed in what was Central America's bloodiest guerrilla war.

As part of the peace accords, the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity _ or URNG, as the guerrillas were commonly called _ is now a legal political party that openly takes part in elections.

Arzu is a conservative who was elected by a strong majority.

``I understand that this forgiveness I ask is symbolic,'' he said. ``Nothing can repair or change what happened. But if we turn the act of forgiveness into a pledge to serve our Guatemala, we can build a better future and thus honor so much blood that was shed.''