Three days of talks to revive the sagging Contadora peace negotiations collapsed in disarray today over Nicaragua's insistence on an end to U.S.-sponsored guerrilla attacks as a condition for peace in Central America.
The display of regional discord came as the House of Representatives prepares to renew debate on a Reagan administration proposal for $100 million in mostly military aid to anti-Sandinista rebels fighting to overthrow the government in Managua. It marked a setback for opponents to the aid here and in Washington who hoped the Contadora talks could provide an alternative.
Foreign ministers who participated in the discussions here insisted the outcome does not spell the end of the Contadora forum for Central American peace efforts under way since a January 1983 meeting on Contadora Island off Panama. But their failure even to commit themselves to a future date for a final agreement cast the Latin American initiative in a particularly negative light at what a number of diplomats described as a critical juncture for the region.
The Contadora nations -- Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela -- sought to put the best face on their efforts with a communique calling on all five Central American governments to answer within eight days whether they are prepared to "reinitiate immediately" negotiations on unresolved issues in a proposed peace treaty. The treaty would curb the military buildup in Central America by limiting the number of foreign military advisers and military maneuvers involving foreign troops and reducing levels of soldiers and armaments. The draft proposal also calls for an end to aid by governments in the region to "irregular forces" fighting other Central American governments.
The Contadora nations were joined in the appeal by Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay, the so-called "support group" whose foreign ministers attended to add weight to the gathering.
The appeal amounted to a challenge to Nicaragua's Sandinista leadership to change its mind. Diplomats from a variety of countries said Foreign Minister Miguel d'Escoto refused through the talks to commit Nicaragua to sign the treaty without simultaneous steps to bring an end to the U.S.-supported guerrilla war in Nicaragua.
The foreign ministers of Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica issued a separate document, labeled the "Panama Commitment," pledging intensive negotiations leading to signing of the Contadora draft treaty by June 6. After prolonged talks here, they walked away from compromise efforts with Nicaragua, saying the Nicaraguan demand falls outside the Contadora framework.
"I don't have anything left to discuss," said Vice President Rodolfo Castillo Claramount of El Salvador, who is also foreign minister.
D'Escoto blamed the lack of agreement on the United States. The Contadora effort can move forward only "in the spirit and framework of the Caraballeda document," he said.
This referred to a January declaration calling for an end to "political, logistical or military support to groups that try to subvert or destabilize constitutional order in Latin American states through force or any terrorist acts of any kind."
The declaration, by the four Contadora and the four support group nations, has been interpreted by Nicaragua as condemnation of U.S. support for the anti-Sandinista guerrillas. The three U.S.-allied Central American governments of El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica have endorsed it but refused today to join the explicit linkage demanded by Nicaragua.
Observers noted that the talks here centered on attempts to elicit a pledge to resume negotiations on a Contadora draft treaty, without any attempts to negotiate the treaty itself. In intermittent talks through the night, ministers and their aides haggled instead over wording of the declaration to reconcile the Nicaraguan demand with the refusal by the three other Central American countries to entertain it. Their efforts produced only a few sentences of agreed changes.
The Sandinista insistence on dealing with U.S. support for the rebels reflected a conviction that regional peace talks would be fruitless as long as the guerrillas continue attacks from bases in Honduras, a Nicaraguan diplomat said. The neighboring countries, on the other hand, have said the guerrilla war in Nicaragua as well as that in El Salvador can end only in the framework of a Contadora-type treaty.
The draft treaty has languished mainly due to Nicaraguan reluctance to reduce its armament level -- citing a threat from the United States -- and reluctance by its neighbors to forswear U.S. military presence -- citing a threat from Nicaragua.