"We certainly made no effort to conceal human rights abuses from Washington," he said. "We called it as we saw it."

* The ambassador stood by remarks that he made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1989, when he was asked about the activities of Battalion 316.

"I have never seen any convincing substantiation that they were involved in death squad-type activities," he told the senators.

"I stand by what I said," he said this week. "My answers are in the context of believing the country had an improving political situation and [that] the human rights violations that occurred were isolated instances and not a matter of government policy. That doesn't make them less deplorable."

Mr. Negroponte said, "I do not have any regrets about the way we carried out U.S. policies" in Central America.

"The world is not perfect. There were blemishes," he said. "But I think improvements were made.

"Over a period of time, I think the situation has improved in Central America, including in Honduras."

Mr. Negroponte's agreement to talk about events in Honduras comes as his assignment in Manila is set to end next summer. The 56-year-old ambassador has not been given a new assignment.

Thomas Hubbard, a deputy assistant secretary for Asia, has been appointed to replace him in Manila.

A vote of confidence

The State Department expressed confidence in Mr. Negroponte this week.

"Ambassador Negroponte continues to have the respect of senior members of this department. He is one of our most respected and accomplished senior diplomats, and he is doing a superb job in the Philippines," said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns.

"I have a 35-year career and a good record," Mr. Negroponte said. "Obviously, anyone who is a public official doesn't like to have this kind of blemish. Not only because of my work in Honduras but because of my work in other posts."

But he added: "I have had four presidential appointments, three subsequent to my time in Honduras. I certainly would have no difficulty standing up in front of anybody in the Senate and explaining my role in Honduras. I think we had a positive record there."

Mr. Negroponte stressed that he achieved the main objective: to consolidate democratic rule in a country that had been governed for most of this century by military regimes. He pointed out that while he was ambassador, Honduras held its first presidential elections in nine years, and that the country has had three others since.

He said that he made reform of the Honduran judicial system a high priority. Through a judicial reform assistance program, he said, he and his staff helped Honduran courts become more independent.

Differing views

"I don't believe it was a matter of government policy to violate human rights," he said, "even if there was a rogue unit under the military that in time got taken care of as well." He referred to the 1984 ouster of Gen. Gustavo Alvarez, the Honduran military chief and architect of Battalion 316.

That view differs strongly from the findings of a 1993 Honduran government report, "The Facts Speak for Themselves," in which the government acknowledged that it was responsible for the violent campaign against its own people during the 1980s.

The report lists the names of 184 people who disappeared during the decade, most of them from 1981 through 1984. Mr. Negroponte served as U.S. ambassador to Honduras from November 1981 to June 1985.