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Delay New Aid Request for Contras, Honduran President Urges

October 23, 1987|MICHAEL WINES | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Jose Azcona Hoyo of Honduras, ending a state visit to Washington, publicly urged the White House on Thursday to withhold new military aid from rebels inside Nicaragua at least until January, when Central American leaders will meet to assess their compliance with a regional peace pact.

The remarks by Azcona, perhaps the United States' most loyal Central American ally, appear to place him at odds with President Reagan, who has vowed to seek $270 million in both military and humanitarian aid for the Contras next month.

But they left him basically in accord with the presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala, all of whom have argued that further U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan rebel forces would dash the prospects of the peace plan that the four nations signed with Nicaragua in August.

As recently as last week, Azcona had warned that he would consider the peace accord void if Central America's guerrilla wars were to continue beyond Nov. 7, the date for cease-fires set by the plan. Now, however, cease-fires seem unlikely to take hold for several months at best.

The White House has publicly described Nov. 7 as a make-or-break deadline for the peace proposal, saying the Administration will wait until after that date passes to officially ask Congress for new aid for the Contra forces, estimated to number 15,000 guerrillas.

One Administration official close to the Central America debate said Thursday that Azcona's remarks indicate the Honduras leader "is not against us, but he's not with us, either" on pressing for further Contra aid.

That official, who asked not to be named, indicated that top U.S. policy-makers remain divided on the question of how much U.S. support should be offered for the peace proposal in the face of failing congressional backing for further aid to the rebels.

A few Administration experts now believe the White House would benefit by delaying its campaign for new aid until after January, in part because they believe public pressure on Nicaragua to comply with the peace accord may become irresistible as more time passes. If not, they say, any Nicaraguan refusal to meet the peace pact's terms also should be apparent by then.

Azcona said at a Thursday news conference that the United States "should not cancel the option of military pressure" on Nicaragua to comply with the peace agreement, which calls for substantial democratic reforms in that nation's Marxist-led government.

He suggested that the White House and Congress should be prepared to "reactivate" military aid to the rebels, if the region's leaders should conclude in a scheduled Jan. 7 meeting that Nicaragua is not carrying out reforms called for in the peace plan.

Azcona's remarks came amid increased public pressure for the United States and Nicaragua to cooperate in ensuring that the peace agreement is successfully carried out.

In a meeting with reporters Wednesday, several prominent Central American and U.S. figures offered a six-item compromise proposal aimed at bringing the two nations closer to full support for the accord.

The proposal, prepared by a study group called the Inter-American Dialogue, calls for the United States to open direct talks with Nicaragua on a range of economic and military differences and for Nicaragua to simultaneously begin cease-fire talks with the Contras. Both side have previously refused to make such moves, although the United States has implied that it would be willing to begin discussions with Managua if the latter first negotiates with the rebels.

The dialogue's co-chairmen, Sol M. Linowitz, a U.S. businessman and former diplomat, and former President Daniel Oduber of Costa Rica, said they are circulating the group's proposal to senior American and Latin American officials.

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