SAN SALVADOR, OCT. 4 -- Peace talks between El Salvador's leftist rebels and the government of President Jose Napoleon Duarte got off to a rocky start today as each side accused the other of delaying tactics. But by day's end, the two sides agreed to hold another meeting Monday.
The talks, the first between the government and the rebels in three years, started more than 4 1/2 hours behind schedule at the papal nunciature here after the rebels held two press conferences.
Organized under the auspices of a regional peace agreement signed in Guatemala Aug. 7, the negotiations are aimed at ending an eight-year-old civil war estimated to have cost more than 60,000 lives.
There appeared to be little common ground between the two sides, however. And each asserted that the other was split by internal dissension between moderates and hard-liners.
In an opening statement, Duarte called for a spirit of national reconciliation, urging the rebels and all Salvadorans to "forgive all those acts that have touched our hearts with pain."
He said, "I, Napoleon Duarte, forgive those who ordered and carried out the kidnaping of my daughter and made death threats that my family has suffered." He urged the rebels to "accept nonviolence as the basis of . . . peace."
Msgr. Arturo Rivera y Damas, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador who is acting as mediator, announced late tonight that the talks had recessed and that negotiations would continue Monday. He said no declarations would be issued until the talks are concluded, but a church spokesman said the exchanges were serious and "going well."
For security reasons, it was not disclosed where the rebel delegates were spending the night.
The meeting had started around 2 p.m. after an eight-member government delegation headed by Duarte arrived under heavy guard at the gates of the Vatican diplomatic mission in an exclusive residential district of the capital. The government side also included the defense minister, Gen. Eugenio Vides Casanova; the vice minister of interior for public security, Col. Reynaldo Lopez Nuila; the ministers of planning and communications; the leader of a progovernment labor union; a representative of private enterprise and a presidential adviser.
The rebel alliance was represented by four guerrilla leaders of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a Marxist coalition of five armed rebel groups, and four members of the Democratic Revolutionary Front, a grouping of unarmed leftist groups in exile.
The eight representatives of the rebel alliance had been scheduled to arrive in San Salvador yesterday by plane from Panama and in a caravan, escorted by Red Cross officials and diplomats, from guerrilla strongholds inside the country. The rebels delayed their arrival here until today, charging that the Salvadoran military had violated a prior agreement to stay clear of the guerrilla strongholds and the roads to be used by the caravan.
The government denied that the military had impeded the rebels' movement. Officials attributed the delay to the failure of two guerrilla commanders to meet the caravan in the agreed locations and to a possible dispute over the rebel negotiating position.
Salvadoran Vice President Rodolfo Castillo Claramont further charged that the the rebels had "created an atmosphere of confrontation" by sending "mobs" last night to occupy a field near the papal nunciature. The site was the scene of taunting and jostling today as a couple of thousand progovernment marchers arrived to find the field occupied by an approximately equal number of leftist demonstrators waving red flags and chanting slogans against Duarte, the military and the United States.
In a press conference at San Salvador's airport upon arriving from Panama, the head of the Democratic Revolutionary Front, Guillermo Ungo, said today that he hoped one result of the meeting would be a commitment to continue a dialogue between the two sides.
He and Shafik Handal, a leader of the Communist Party, an armed guerrilla group, declined to comment on any proposals to be negotiated, including the rebels' repeated demand for participation in a coalition government.
Duarte has said he would not modify his position that the guerrillas must participate in the political process as it is now organized and wait for scheduled elections to seek power.
Later, guerrilla commanders Leonel Gonzalez and Facundo Guardado, who arrived by car from guerrilla strongholds in the northern and central parts of the country, told a news conference at the Spanish ambassador's residence that Salvadoran troops had held up their trip.
Gonzalez, who heads the Popular Liberation Forces, said: "We're looking for a political solution, not because we're weak, but, on the contrary, because we are militarily consolidated."
He added that the FMLN rebels, who are estimated to field about 6,000 fighters, "have expanded the war to the entire country" and are now "developing a permanent war of the highways" aimed at controlling transportation throughout El Salvador.
Gonzalez denied reports that a rift between the FMLN and Democratic Revolutionary Front delegates had caused the delay between the arrival of the rebels in the capital and the start of the talks with the government. He said, however, that "we are working to coordinate the points of view of the two commissions" before heading into the talks.