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Reagan's Compromise Offer Makes Only Minor Concessions

March 20, 1986|DOYLE McMANUS | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The executive order offered by President Reagan as part of a compromise plan for aid to Nicaraguan rebels contains several small concessions but no major ones, Administration officials and members of Congress said Wednesday.

The draft order would restrict military aid to the rebels, known as contras, to include only training, logistics aid, anti-aircraft weapons and non-lethal supplies for 90 days. During that period, the United States would urge the Sandinista government to enter "a serious dialogue with all elements of the democratic opposition" in Nicaragua, including the contras.

If the Sandinistas complied, the restrictions on aid to the contras would be maintained. But if Reagan decided that the Sandinistas had failed to negotiate seriously, the $100 million package of aid for the contras would be spent with no restrictions on its use.

"We believe this is a fair and equitable agreement that meets the concerns of Democrats and Republicans alike," White House spokesman Larry Speakes said in announcing the proposal. "It meets the national security needs of the United States and it demonstrates once again our commitment to begin working on a negotiated settlement immediately."

House Victory Doubtful

But several Administration officials conceded that it is doubtful that the White House proposal either will win a majority in the Democratic-led House of Representatives today or entice the Sandinistas into peace talks.

Leading Democrats, including some who had negotiated with the Administration for months, said that the proposal does not go far enough. And Nicaraguan Embassy officials said their government still rejects Reagan's central demand, that the Sandinistas negotiate directly with the contra leaders.

"There were a lot of areas where the Administration refused to give," said a source who participated in the talks with Congress.

Administration officials said that the main concessions the White House made were to agree to the 90-day negotiating period and the appointment of a five-member presidential commission that would oversee the talks.

Little Effect Seen

But they conceded that the 90-day delay would have little real effect on the Administration's plans to enlarge the contra army, in part because some delay in getting new weapons to the rebels is inevitable. And while the commission would have the right to oversee the negotiating process, Speakes said that the issue of whether the Sandinistas had complied with Reagan's conditions "would be ultimately decided by the President."

"Beyond that point, it's a matter of trust," a senior State Department official said. "You've got to have some faith that when we say we'll seek a negotiated solution, we will. You can't write that into law."

That, several congressmen said, is a central part of the problem: Many Democrats and some Republicans doubt Reagan's sincerity when he says he wants to promote a negotiated solution in Nicaragua.

Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.), who helped negotiate a compromise on contra aid last year, bargained with Administration officials until late Tuesday night, but in the end said he could not accept a plan that is not written into law and that does not require a second vote in Congress to release aid after the 90-day pause.

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