SAN SALVADOR — Guerrillas Friday accepted President Jose Napoleon Duarte's offer to hold peace talks on Sept. 15, but later in the day, Duarte said the meeting would take place only if the rebels renounced violence.
In a speech Thursday, Duarte proposed the new round of talks to discuss a cease-fire mandated by the preliminary regional peace accord signed by the five Central American presidents in Guatemala last week.
In making his offer, Duarte called on the guerrillas to endorse the peace plan and asked Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to talk on the same day with the U.S.-backed contras fighting the Managua regime.
"I will only accept meeting with the guerrillas if they publicly accept the points agreed on in Guatemala and if they accept that violence is not the road to taking power, but that they should incorporate into the democratic process," Duarte said in a local television interview Friday.
"I am not obligated to dialogue with armed groups. I am going farther than the agreement because of the democratic opening. I ask them to dialogue, but under those conditions," he said.
Duarte had not made it clear Thursday whether the guerrillas had to agree to accept amnesty before the dialogue could take place, but Defense Minister Carlos Vides Casanova said the guerrillas had to put down their arms before talks could be held.
In their communication, the Salvadoran rebels--the guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front and their political allies of the Revolutionary Democratic Front--suggested that negotiations be held for two days and that they and Duarte's government be represented "at the highest level" in the talks.
The rebels did not embrace the entire peace plan but they quoted from it, saying the agenda for the meeting should focus on "actions of national reconciliation that allow for popular participation, with full guarantees in authentic political processes of a democratic character on the basis of justice, freedom and democracy."
The peace plan, aimed primarily at ending the guerrilla wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, calls for amnesty for rebels in Central America's insurgencies, negotiations with an unarmed opposition, and a cutoff of all international aid to rebel groups. It also calls for for the region's government to practice authentic political pluralism, holding regular elections and allowing press freedom.