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8 Latin Diplomats Urge U.S. to Take Active Role in Peace Talks

January 22, 1987|DAN WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — Eight Latin American diplomats promoting peace talks in Central America moved Wednesday to persuade the United States to take an active role in peace negotiations.

The diplomats, members of the so-called Contadora Group, said they will "maintain" a dialogue in the coming weeks with the United States, "whose contribution is necessary to reach a peaceful solution" of Central American conflicts.

The diplomats made their appeal in a communique issued here Wednesday night. The note followed their tour this week of five Central American capitals that was designed to revive moribund peace talks.

The message said the main obstacles to peace in the area are "different perceptions" of how to resolve problems and "the persistence of acts that violate international law."

The latter phrase was widely interpreted to mean U.S. funding for Nicaraguan contras. The call for talks with the United States comes at a time when future U.S. aid for the contras is in question due to the uproar over the Iran-contra arms scandal.

The Contadora negotiations began four years ago when diplomats from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama tried to forge a peace treaty among Nicaragua and its neighbors--Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

Last year, as the talks withered, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay joined in a support group for the original four. Along with the eight peace-seeking nations, U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar and Joao Baena Soares, secretary general of the Organization of American States, also participated in this week's Central American tour.

The Reagan Administration is highly suspicious of the latest Contadora moves. Officials in Washington have long contended that the group favors Marxist-led Nicaragua, particularly because Mexico has been a prime mover in the negotiations and its foreign minister, Bernardo Sepulveda, is known as a supporter of the Sandinista government.

Recently, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams charged that the Contadora Group was trying to impose a "fraudulent treaty" on the region. He complained that not enough pressure was being put on Nicaragua to democratize its political system.

On the other hand, Abrams asserted, much leverage is being applied to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica to accept the treaty because those countries are "easier to pressure."

Because Washington supports the contras, Argentine Foreign Minister Dante Caputo said, "the U.S. is not in favor of one of the fundamental points in (the Contadora) effort to achieve peace."

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