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New Guatemala President Wary on Role of U.S.

December 17, 1985|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Guatemalan President-elect Vinicio Cerezo said today that he looks to the United States as a partner in his country's democratic development but he disassociated himself from U.S. policy in Central America.

At a news conference, Cerezo said the new civilian government he will lead starting Jan. 14 will pursue a policy of "active neutrality" toward Central America's conflicts with emphasis on steps to promote peaceful agreements.

Rather than deal with Central America's problems as part of a larger dispute between East and West, Cerezo said he hopes to organize a forum to resolve differences without confrontation.

He declined to criticize the Sandinista government, leaving the impression that he disputes the American view that Nicaragua's leftist leadership is a major source of instability in the region.

Sees U.S. 'Partnership'

Nonetheless, he had kind words for the United States. In contrast to the U.S. role in promoting a military coup in Guatemala in 1954, Cerezo said, the American emphasis now is on promoting democracy.

"I consider myself a friend of the United States," he said, adding that he sees a U.S. role in establishing a "partnership in democracy" in Guatemala.

Cerezo seemed annoyed when several questioners asked him about the possibility of U.S. military aid for Guatemala.

"The real challenge is not to have the best army in Central America but the best democracy," he said.

Cerezo was in Washington for meetings with Vice President George Bush, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead, AID Administrator M. Peter McPherson and Senate and House members.

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