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Latins May Condemn Contras Aid : 13 Foreign Ministers Try to Revive Faltering Peace Talks

April 06, 1986|DAN WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

PANAMA CITY — As part of an effort to revive faltering Central American peace talks, a meeting of Latin American foreign ministers is considering a proposal to condemn U.S. aid to Nicaraguan rebels.

The proposal to attack the assistance is contained in working papers circulating among the 13 foreign ministers who began meetings here Saturday.

President Reagan's proposal to supply $100 million in aid to the contras, as the rebels are known, has been approved by the Senate and is scheduled to come up again in the House at mid-month. The House narrowly defeated the aid when it first voted on the proposal last month.

Outright Latin opposition to the aid would likely become an issue in the House debate.

According to the working document, furnishing aid to the contras in their fight against Nicaragua's Marxist-led Sandinista regime "would affect in an irreversible manner" peace efforts in the region. The paper urged outright criticism of the aid that "can have a degree of impact" on the forthcoming vote in Congress.

A diplomatic source who provided The Times with the papers said that he expects the foreign ministers' eventual public criticism of the aid proposal, if any, to be couched in vague diplomatic language.

"I wish it could be stronger," he said, "but that's the way diplomats talk."

The 13 foreign ministers are meeting in furtherance of what has become known as the Contadora peace process.

The process was begun by the so-called Contadora Group of four nations that have been seeking a solution to Central American conflicts through diplomatic mediation for more than three years. The four, Mexico, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela, call themselves the Contadora Group after the name of the Panamanian resort island where they held their first meeting in January, 1983.

Objective: Peace Treaty

Their principal objective is a peace treaty among the five Central American nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Last year, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay joined together as a Contadora "support group."

All 13 ministers met together for the first time here Saturday, and their talks are scheduled to conclude today.

The Contadora talks have bogged down in disagreements over the balance of military forces among the Central American nations and over such things as the role of the United States and Cuba in the region.

The United States has provided millions of dollars in assistance to the contras. It also gives substantial military and economic aid to El Salvador, which has been fighting a leftist guerrilla insurgency for six years. Cuba furnishes military aid and advisers to the Nicaraguan government.

Last year, Nicaragua announced that it would refuse to sign a Central American peace treaty unless the United States signed a separate agreement ending its support of the contras.

Negotiators here hope to set a date for further negotiations and perhaps even for the signing of a peace treaty among the Central American countries. The agenda includes discussion of a proposed nonaggression declaration by the five Central American nations.

The ministers also planned to discuss border tensions between Nicaragua and its immediate neighbors to the north and south, Honduras and Costa Rica.

The Sandinista government complains that U.S.-backed rebels use both Honduran and Costa Rican territory as sanctuaries from which to launch attacks on Nicaragua. The Sandinistas have proposed establishing multinational commissions to monitor both frontiers.

Recently, Nicaraguan troops attacked contras camps inside Honduras. With U.S. prodding, Honduras complained about the incident and sent its own soldiers to the border, after receiving helicopter transport and $20 million in emergency U.S. aid.

In general, Honduras and Costa Rica have linked any border settlement with Nicaragua with the conclusion of a peace treaty.

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