OSLO — President Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize today for developing and promoting a peace plan to end the guerrilla wars in Central America.
The Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament said that as the plan's architect, Arias "made an outstanding contribution to the possible return of stability and peace to a region long torn by strife and civil war."
The selection was a surprise in that Arias had not been mentioned in speculation about this year's winner. He was cited by the Nobel Committee as a spokesman for "democratic ideals, with freedom and equality for all."
President Reagan, asked about the prize as he left the White House today, responded, "I congratulate him." The Reagan Administration has criticized the peace plan as "fatally flawed."
Arias, 46, called the news of the prize "incredible."
"I am personally thankful for the Nobel Peace Prize and I accept it emotionally," he said. "But I accept it for Costa Rica, for peace, and not only for Costa Rica, but for Central America, where 25 million human beings deserve to live in peace, where 25 million human beings deserve to look toward the future with optimism, with some hope of progress.
"We must not forget that in this moment in which the eyes of the world are fixed on Central America, that this little geographic part of the world has suffered," Arias said.
"There has been war in El Salvador for many years; there has been war in Nicaragua for many years. This must stop. It must stop immediately," Arias said.
Arias began working on the plan immediately after he was elected Costa Rica's president in May, 1986, with 53% of the vote.
The Central American peace plan was signed Aug. 7 in Guatemala City by Arias and the presidents of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
Aimed at ending guerrilla wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, the plan calls for cease-fires, amnesties and democratic reforms in Central America, as well as an end to outside aid to rebels in the region.
Arias met with President Reagan in Washington on Sept. 22 and addressed the U.N. General Assembly a day later. The General Assembly on Oct. 7 approved a resolution endorsing the peace plan.
"The fundamental difference between my position and that of President Reagan's Administration is that we (the peace accord signatories) are convinced that if there is to be any change of government in Central America, it must be by means of votes and not through the use of weapons," Arias said after his speech at the United Nations.
Since the peace plan was signed, the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua has allowed opposition media to reopen, begun a limited cease-fire and started talks with the internal opposition. El Salvador and Guatemala have held talks with insurgents.
Arias, a lawyer, earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Costa Rica in 1967 and studied at the University of Essex in England and at the London School of Economics.
He has been a university professor and a member of Costa Rica's Legislative Assembly and has written several books on politics and economic development in Latin America.
Among nominees for the prize this year were President Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, President Raul Alfonsin of Argentina, British hostage negotiator Terry Waite and the World Health Organization.
Each prize carries a cash award of about $340,000.