Salvadoran government, rebels reportedly reach accord, set talks on cease-fire

MEXICO CITY — MEXICO CITY -- The Salvadoran government and guerrillas reached an accord yesterday that appears to clear the way for talks on a cease-fire to end their 11-year-old war.

Details of the agreement were not immediately available. But a rebel source said: "This will clear the way for the next stage . . . the cease-fire."


The cease-fire talks have been postponed, pending further discussion on constitutional changes sought by the guerrillas.

The record 25 days of negotiations here seemed near the stalling point late Friday, with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) gaining few of the constitutional changes it sought.


The changes are key to permitting the talks to proceed to final discussions on a cease-fire.

Meanwhile, in San Salvador, the Legislative Assembly's Committee on Constitutional Changes was awaiting the proposed amendments contained in the Mexico City accord.

The negotiating teams were at the point of leaving when the United Nations mediator, Alvaro de Soto, offered a compromise proposal that rekindled the interest of both sides.

Salvador Samayoa, one of the rebel negotiators, said yesterday that "only a tiny thing" separated the two sides, but he could not explain his remark because of a U.N.-imposed gag rule.

The talks, which began April 3, have three components: a cease-fire, the armed forces and the constitutional changes.

The constitutional changes have a built-in deadline because any amendments must be adopted by two consecutive sessions of the Legislative Assembly. The current assembly's term expires midnight Tuesday, with the next assembly taking office the following day.

The aim is to have the changes approved either tomorrow or Tuesday and then adopted by the incoming assembly within a few days.

The four principal parties, after sending representatives to the talks here last week, have agreed to more than 30 constitutional changes, including the creation of an elected human rights prosecutor and a National Civil Police force, along with reforms of the Supreme Court and the election appeals board.


The nation's three police agencies are run by the military. A key FMLN demand seeks to place the police under a separate, civilian-controlled agency.

Under the changes, the army would still have a role "to maintain public order" and to "make effective compliance with the constitution and current laws."

The FMLN contends that the latter clause would permit the 56,000-man military to continue its role as arbiter of the constitution, effectively deciding what rules it would obey.

The ruling right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance, or Arena, says the military is subordinate to the president as commander in chief.

The emphasis on military reforms reflects the bitterness of the civil war that has claimed more than 72,000 lives and has crippled the economy.