WASHINGTON — Secretary of State George P. Shultz, saying that the United States will "give peace every chance," told Central American diplomats Tuesday that the Reagan Administration will not seek new aid for Nicaraguan Contra forces until next year, after compliance with a regional peace plan can be measured.
In remarks to the Organization of American States' General Assembly, Shultz also warned that the United States will not remain idle if Nicaragua uses that delay to press a major military offensive against depleted rebel forces.
Shultz spoke to the organization's annual assembly only hours after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega arrived in Washington on his first visit in eight years. He is scheduled to speak to the same group today.
The secretary's conciliatory remarks, along with Ortega's hastily scheduled visit to the OAS gathering, stirred speculation that new efforts may be at hand to implement the shaky Central American peace agreement signed in August by Nicaragua and its four neighbors.
Earlier Tuesday, a Shultz spokesman rejected outright the prospect of any direct meeting between Administration officials and Ortega during his three-day Washington visit.
However, Ortega reportedly will meet House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), the major congressional figure in the peace process, to discuss a possible role for Wright in overseeing or arranging a cease-fire between Ortega's Sandinista government and the Contras.
Both Wright and Ortega also may meet this week with Nicaragua's Roman Catholic primate, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, whom Ortega asked last week to serve as a go-between in the cease-fire talks.
Obando has not formally accepted the offer, but Contra political leader Adolfo Calero, also in Washington for a speech and discussions with Central American diplomats, said Tuesday that the cardinal is "very much disposed" to broker the talks if the church will permit him to do so.
Shultz's 32-minute speech to the OAS broke no new diplomatic ground. It did underscore new American willingness to give the three-month-old regional peace plan a chance after an initial period of skepticism.
The pact calls for democratic reforms, a general amnesty and an end to support for guerrilla wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Costa Rica, whose President Oscar Arias Sanchez drafted the plan, also has signed the agreement.
On Tuesday, Shultz repeated White House complaints that the Ortega regime has failed to grant a complete amnesty, restore full freedoms or lift a state of emergency as required by the peace agreement.
He added, however, that fulfilling those requirements would probably persuade most Sandinista opponents, including the Contras, to come out of hiding and "join in their country's democratic politics."
Shultz also gently praised Ortega's decision last week to open indirect cease-fire talks with the Contras, saying that U.S. officials "welcome any move by the government of Nicaragua, no matter how tentative, to end the fighting and the grievances that have caused it."
Repeats Reagan Offer
And he repeated President Reagan's guarded offer, formally extended Monday, to resume lapsed regional security talks with Nicaragua if the Ortega government engages in serious cease-fire talks with the Contras.
Contra leader Calero, in remarks Tuesday at a conservative Washington think tank, reiterated the rebels' eagerness to begin those talks and indicated that the site apparently favored by the Sandinistas, the Costa Rica capital of San Jose, is acceptable.
He outlined what he said are minimum conditions for a cease-fire that would be acceptable to Contra negotiators. They include an end to fighting with no change in the military position of either side, provisions for the rebels to evacuate sick or wounded soldiers, the ability to communicate and resupply forces so that military lines may be kept intact and the right to train and maintain forces at fighting strength so that either side could respond to a breach in the cease-fire by the other.
Calero also said that the rebels view the cease-fire "as a measure to create an adequate atmosphere for broader negotiations," a call for political talks that Ortega has already rejected.
Ortega is making his first visit to Washington since September, 1979, two months after Sandinista guerrillas ousted dictator Anastasio Somoza and established what the United States then believed would be a democracy. The Nicaraguan Embassy said he will visit a Washington church to address religious groups involved in Central American issues and meet with reporters before ending his Washington visit.