A Washington-based auto safety group yesterday accused General Motors Corp. of refusing to recall 700,000 cars with potential sudden-acceleration problems, even though the company's engineers had suggested that it take such an action.

The charges by the Center For Auto Safety are based on what the center says are internal GM documents, including an Aug. 24, 1987, memo by GM's Flint Product Team in which GM engineers contended that defects in accelerator cables and vacuum hoses could cause sudden acceleration in the company's 1986-1987 H cars.

GM officials acknowledged the existence of the documents, which they said were submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last November in response to that agency's probe of sudden-acceleration complaints.

But a spokesman for the company said that the safety group "was selective in what it distributed to the media."

A technical committee "did make a preliminary recommendation that certain cars be recalled," the GM officials said in their response yesterday.

"But, after further investigation, the same committee withdrew its recommendation on the basis that the incidents {of sudden-acceleration or throttle-control problems} were isolated, with no commonality," said the GM response to the center's charges.

The full GM report to NHTSA was available to the center, but the center chose to "omit key documents" in its media presentation, a GM spokesman said.

He said that GM "continues to work closely with the NHTSA" in the sudden-acceleration investigation.

GM's H cars include the front-wheel-drive Pontiac Bonneville, Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale and Buick LeSabre models.

"Sudden acceleration" is a defect allegedly affecting a wide variety of cars equipped with computer-controlled engines and automatic transmissions, including prestigious autos, such as those produced by Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

The condition usually occurs when a driver shifts from "park" to "reverse" or "drive." The car moves backward or forward at a surprisingly high rate of speed, often frightening the driver and leading to loss of driver control over the vehicle.

CFAS, a longtime critic of the auto industry and its federal regulators, said that the documents in its possession show that GM employees and dealers have reported 50 incidents of sudden acceleration in the 1986-1987 H cars.

According to the center, the August 1987 memo quotes several GM engineers as recommending that the company "conduct ... a safety related campaign to address the ... causes of throttle sticking" in 1986-1987 H cars equipped with 3-liter and 3.8-liter V-6 engines.

In all, according to CFAS, there have been 300 accidents involving sudden acceleration in the affected family of H cars.

Those mishaps include 114 injuries and one death, the auto safety group said.