SAN SALVADOR — The Salvadoran government has agreed to a church proposal for preparatory private meetings with rebel leaders to set an agenda for a third round of peace talks aimed at ending the country's civil war, a Roman Catholic Church leader said Sunday.
Msgr. Gregorio Rosa Chavez, the auxiliary archbishop of El Salvador, said the church made the proposal last week as a means of trying to ensure the success of the new talks, which President Jose Napoleon Duarte proposed on June 1.
Rosa Chavez said Duarte has accepted the proposal from the church, which is acting as mediator in the new round of talks. The prelate, however, did not indicate whether the rebels have accepted the proposal for the preliminary meeting.
Duarte suggested that the third round of talks begin in late July or August, but no time or venue have yet been agreed upon by the two sides. The preparatory round of talks could force a delay in Duarte's suggested timetable.
2 Meetings in 1984
The U.S.-backed Salvadoran government and leaders of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, the political wing of the leftist rebel movement, failed to reach an accord during the previous two rounds of talks in late 1984. They have not met publicly since.
Radio Venceremos, the clandestine radio station of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the rebels' umbrella military wing, Sunday reiterated the guerrilla position that the third round of talks should be convened in San Salvador.
The broadcast mentioned the church's proposal for private preparatory talks but did not say if the rebels had accepted the proposal.
Rosa Chavez said the private talks, which could last indefinitely, would enable the two sides to arrive at an accord on major issues before meeting in public for the third round.
Long, Slow Process
"This process . . . obviously is longer and slower but overall is safer and allows us to avoid frustrating the people in this third opportunity," the auxiliary archbishop told reporters after a Sunday homily here.
He said that Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas met with rebel leaders in Mexico last week, but he gave no details of the meeting.
In his sermon Sunday at the Metropolitan Cathedral, Rosa Chavez insisted that the country must end the civil war that has killed tens of thousands, many of them in right-wing death squad violence.
"This week we had the World Cup of death, judging from the number of deaths from political violence--at least 103 by conservative estimates of the church's legal aid office," the bishop said.
Most of the victims were slain in a rebel attack on the military headquarters in San Miguel, which left more than 50 soldiers killed or wounded and 20 rebels dead in the largest guerrilla attack in more than two years.