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U.S., Costa Rica Envoys Discuss Peace Initiative

January 08, 1987|DON SHANNON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration's top Central American diplomats met Wednesday in Miami with Costa Rican officials to hear new proposals for Nicaraguan peace.

State Department spokesman Phyllis Oakley announced Wednesday night that Ambassador Philip C. Habib, the special envoy to Central America, and Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, conferred with Costa Rican Foreign Minister Madrigal Nieto "to discuss the current situation in Central America."

"The government of Costa Rica has been developing its ideas about the resolution of the Central American conflict, and U.S. officials were interested in hearing their ideas and discussing them," Oakley said. "Ambassador Habib will be visiting several Central American and Contadora countries next week to hear their views as part of his normal consultation."

Costa Rican Ambassador Guido Fernandez, speaking in Washington, said that his country and Guatemala want to enlist the support of Abrams and Habib for informal talks between Nicaragua's Sandinista leaders and the neighboring Central American countries.

Administration Reluctant

Fernandez said that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez raised the suggestion when he visited Washington last year and "received encouragement" from President Reagan and from congressional leaders.

The Reagan Administration has shown little enthusiasm for the peace efforts of the so-called Contadora Group since the group was formed in 1983, fearing that any resulting agreement would bolster Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista regime and foreclose U.S. aid for the contras seeking to overthrow it. The Central American peace plan of the Contadora Group--consisting of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama--is supported by Peru, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay.

But the Sandinistas, after initial declarations of support for the Contadora process, deserted the long-running talks in 1985, saying that the draft treaty then being discussed would have imposed arms limits on the government but left the contras uncontrolled.

Although the United States has shunned the Contadora Group's efforts--preferring instead that a solution be negotiated by the Central American nations themselves--it is willing to talk with Costa Rica, which is not a member of the organization.

"Costa Rica has refused to participate in Contadora meetings since Nicaragua brought suit against us in the World Court," Fernandez said, referring to a Sandinista claim for damages inflicted by rebel troops allegedly based in Costa Rica.

Oakley said the United States consults regularly with its allies about how to achieve democracy and peace in Central America and "supports any initiative that leads to a genuine democratic outcome in Nicaragua." However, she added the standard State Department caveat: "This objective can only be achieved by the Sandinistas' beginning direct discussion with all its opposition."

The Sandinistas have refused to deal directly with the contras.

The Central American situation will be the subject of a formal debate by the Organization of American States this morning when Richard T. McCormack, U.S. envoy to the 27-nation organization, will question OAS Secretary General Joao Baena Soares about the propriety of his acceptance of an invitation from the Contadora nations to visit Central America.

Such a visit by Baena Soares, who was asked to join U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar in a tour aimed at reviving peace talks, could raise questions about his objectivity in the matter.

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