WASHINGTON — President Reagan praised Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte on Thursday for supporting U.S. policy in Central America and took the opportunity to renew his appeal to Congress for aid to Nicaraguan rebels.
Reagan met for half an hour with Duarte, who is on a nine-day visit to the United States, and declared the Salvadoran leader's government to be a success story--thanks, he said, to U.S. aid.
"President Duarte has much to be proud of," Reagan said during a brief appearance with Duarte in the White House Rose Garden.
Human Rights Cited
Citing what he called an "indisputable improvement in the human rights climate in El Salvador," Reagan said, "Economic reforms are continuing, and Communist guerrillas are losing ground.
"None of this would have been possible without the economic assistance and military training and equipment that we provided," Reagan said. "If there's to be peace and democracy in the region, if our neighbors are to be spared the tragedy that comes from every Communist dictatorship, we must have the courage to help all our friends in Central America."
White House officials said Reagan was referring to his stalled request in Congress for $14 million in aid to the Nicaraguan \o7 contras, \f7 who are fighting the leftist regime in Managua.
Shortly before the President's meeting with Duarte, Secretary of State George P. Shultz and national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane met with House Republican leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) to discuss strategies for bringing the aid request back before the House, where the Democratic majority defeated it last month.
A Michel aide said later that the White House has agreed to accept provisions banning military aid to the contras and excluding the CIA from a role in supplying "non-military" assistance--two conditions demanded by moderate Democrats.
"We expect the Administration to win this time," said a key Democratic congressman who asked not to be identified.
Officials said the issue probably will be brought up as part of a supplemental appropriation bill in the House next month.
Duarte echoed Reagan's comments with a strong condemnation of Nicaragua. "Of the two Central American revolutions of 1979, ours has succeeded as Nicaragua's has been betrayed," he said. "I have assured President Reagan of our support for his purpose of stopping the spread of foreign ideologies."
Reagan said he "deeply appreciated" Duarte's support for his request for aid to the contras and the U.S. trade embargo of Nicaragua, although Duarte did not refer specifically to either of the two policies, which have been publicly opposed by other Latin American countries.
A senior Administration official who briefed reporters on condition that he not be identified said Reagan did not ask Duarte to join the trade embargo and the Salvadoran did not offer to do so.
The official said Duarte told Reagan of "specific needs" of his country but did not present a formal request for additional aid. Reagan told Duarte "there would be sympathetic understanding given to those specific needs," the official said.