The suggestion in the Jan. 28 editorial "Drawing Guerrillas Into Peace" that Democrats put pressure on the FMLN rebels in El Salvador to negotiate for peace implied that Democrats have some special influence with the FMLN, an assumption I question.

The administration, on the other hand, undoubtedly has enormous influence over the conduct of the Salvadoran government and military. I wish it would use some of that vast influence to get justice in the Jesuit murders and the thousands of other death-squad killings.

I would also like to see it make a serious effort to mobilize the United Nations behind an attempt to negotiate a political settlement. We can exert the highest level of leadership and pressure to unify the United Nations behind our stand in the Persian Gulf, but our efforts to engage the U.N. to end the conflict in El Salvador remain on the back burner, handled by third- and fourth-level administration officials. PATRICK LEAHY U.S. Senator (D-Vt.) Chairman, Foreign Operations Subcommittee Washington

I was deeply dismayed by the factual error in the editorial "Drawing Guerrillas Into Peace." The editorial inaccurately stated that the missiles used by the FMLN in the Jan. 2 downing of a U.S. helicopter in El Salvador were Soviet-made. All accounts -- including State Department releases -- reported that the aircraft was downed not by missiles, but by small-arms fire.

While the editorial correctly gave the reason for the congressional cut in U.S. military aid as "justifiable disgust at the armed forces' murder (and coverup) of the Jesuit priests," it failed to mention that the intent of the law was to pressure both sides into a negotiated political settlement to the 11-year military conflict. It also neglected to mention that both sides -- not just the FMLN -- have been delinquent in keeping the conditions outlined in the U.S. law.

The government and the FMLN are closer to peace than ever; a truly hopeful negotiations process is underway. But rather than promoting serious negotiations, President Bush's promise to restore military aid if there is no cease-fire agreement by March 15 only gives the army an incentive to stall. ANN L. BUTWELL Special Assistant for El Salvador Washington Office on Latin America Washington

I want to commend The Post on its editorial "Atrocity in El Salvador" {Jan. 8}, which condemned the murder of two U.S. military advisers by FMLN guerrillas. On behalf of the people of El Salvador, I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the families of the American servicemen and join The Post in its outrage at this violation of basic humanitarian norms.

The editorial correctly pointed out that "under any fair reading of the law" enough evidence now exists against the FMLN to justify the restoration of U.S. military aid to our government, which had been withheld by Congress last fall. The law stipulated that President Bush could restore assistance if the FMLN threatened the security of El Salvador's democratically elected government or escalated violence in significant ways.

Shortly after the law's passage, the FMLN launched a brutal offensive, which, regrettably, has resulted in hundreds of casualties. The three American servicemen are the most recent victims of the FMLN's ongoing campaign of terror.

The editorial urged the Bush administration to "pause" before releasing the withheld aid in order "to give the parties a chance to work harder on the priority goal of a cease-fire. ... In this pause, the Cristiani government would have available a potentially useful new lever: the assurance that if the FMLN evaded a cease-fire, full aid would be turned back on."

This idea is consistent with the proposal offered by President Alfredo Cristiani last fall when he visited Washington to try to persuade Congress to link the withholding of U.S. military assistance to a cease-fire agreement between the parties. At that time, The Post along with the other four Central American presidents endorsed this principle. Had Congress listened to their advice, 1991 might have started off with news of peace from El Salvador instead of reports of yet another guerrilla offensive or atrocity.

If the legislation was intended to lead to the de-escalation of hostilities, it clearly has not. Even though restoration of U.S. aid should be forthcoming, El Salvador will be better off if the FMLN agrees to a cease-fire. It is only through this kind of "pause" that any real progress in peace negotiations can take place. MIGUEL A. SALAVERRIA El Salvador's Ambassador to the United States Washington

The editorial "Drawing Guerrillas Into Peace" mischaracterized the president's plan to release $42.5 million in withheld military aid to El Salvador. The president is not encouraging negotiations by releasing the aid but merely suspending the release for 60 days. His actions undermine the peace talks and disrupt the balance the original legislation was designed to establish.

Those of us in Congress who are working to change U.S. policy in El Salvador are not on the side of the FMLN, which the editorial implied. We abhor the murders of the two Americans after the downing of their helicopter, and we are pushing for the guilty parties to be brought to justice.

But we have real concerns about the ability of the Salvadoran government to restrain and control its arrogant, omnipotent and immoral military, as evidenced by the failure of the investigation into the assassinations of the Jesuits, who were murdered more than 14 months ago. The aid cutoff, in fact, provided leverage to the Salvadoran government to control the military. This balance will also be disturbed by the president's decision. NANCY PELOSI U.S. Representative (D-Calif.) Washington