This is to respond to letters published Aug. 30 that criticized a Post editorial {Aug. 24} defending the continuation of military aid to El Salvador.

Barbara Dole of Silver Spring missed the point of the editorial. No one can -- or does -- defend the abominable slaying of the six Jesuits and their two employees, a crime which has led to the most extensive and efficient criminal investigation in the annals of El Salvador, thanks to the decisive leadership of President Alfredo Cristiani. Nine military officers and soldiers have been arrested, including a colonel. The investigation is moving forward, and the trial is expected to begin soon. Congressional outrage about the killings, as pointed out by Aryeh Neier, is fully shared by our government and was forcefully expressed in President Cristiani's condemnation of the crime.

The editorial made the point that, despite this case, U.S. military aid should not be cut while the armed conflict remains unresolved. The FMLN's violent offensive launched last November, after abandoning the peace process, resulted in thousands of deaths in a failed attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government and establish by force a Marxist dictatorship. At the peace talks, the FMLN has made outlandish demands (as the editorial indicated) that sweeping changes in the armed forces be instituted before a cease-fire is agreed to.

It is not true that the talks have stalled because our government has been unwilling to "pay the price for peace." The FMLN has threatened another armed offensive this fall and has called for the dismantling of our armed forces before agreeing to peace terms. No constitutionally elected and responsible government can agree to forgo the defense of its citizens unilaterally, especially while it is subjected almost daily to blackouts and other forms of sabotage.

The two letters made no mention of the fact that the FMLN has killed government officials and civilians in cold blood and continues to receive weapons from leftist allies outside our borders. The government of the United States fully realizes that until the FMLN assumes a constructive and cooperative role in the peace talks, it is in America's interest to continue helping our government withstand the FMLN's violent assaults. Individual criminal acts by extra-legal groups cannot and should not be the determinant of the U.S. foreign policy toward our government. That concern is at the heart of The Post's editorial. This is also the position of all of the Central American presidents, who have publicly endorsed President Cristiani in his efforts.

MIGUEL A. SALAVERRIA Ambassador Embassy of El Salvador Washington