Junta leader Duarte also said in an interview that his country needs economic assistance from the United States more than military help and could do without U.S. arms if guerrilla weapons allegedly coming from Nicaragua were cut off.

His statement came as the United States planned to step up arms aid to help the junta defeat leftist guerrillas.

Duarte said today that weapons for the guerrillas are stored in Nicaragua, and if the weapons stay in Nicaragua, "El Salvador would only have to face economic problems."

"If we can keep nations such as Cuba, East Germany, Ethiopia, North Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Angola and other communist nations that are using Nicaragua, from sending arms to the guerrillas," El Salvador could seek a political solution to its problems, Duarte said. "If these arms were stopped, El Salvador would not need arms."

The guerrillas have stepped up a campaign in the past month to undermine the country's fragile economic base, reportedly blowing up transportation and communications links, attacking public works construction crews and burning cotton fields.

Salvadoran officials have offered televised statements by two Nicaraguans as evidence that the Nicaraguan government is aiding the guerrillas.

A young man dressed in battle fatigues appeared on national television Friday, saying he was one of 500 guerrillas sent from Nicaragua to fight against the Salvadoran government.

The man, who identified himself as Orlando Tendersier, 18, said he was a member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which toppled the late Nicaraguan president, Anastasio Somoza, in July 1979.

On Thursday, Salvadoran television presented a former pilot of Nicaragua's national airline, Julio Santiago Romero Taladera, who said leaders of his country's government were directing an arms airlift to the leftist guerrillas in El Salvador.

There was no immediate comment from Nicaragua.