SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA, OCT. 27 -- With only nine days until the deadline of Central America's peace plan, the five foreign ministers in the region met today as every country scrambled to impose its own interpretations of the complex accord.
A consensus prevailed that the peace process was still lumbering forward. The accord, based on a proposal by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, was signed Aug. 7 in Guatemala and is to take effect Nov. 5.
"Something has changed in Central America" since the pact, noted Costa Rican Foreign Minister Rodrigo Madrigal Nieto. "A refreshing spirit of dialogue prevails."
In an apparent reference to the Reagan administration, which has criticized the accords as too easy on Nicaragua, Madrigal called today's meeting "a firm refutation of views adverse to" the pact.
Madrigal also chastised his fellow ministers for dragging their feet and warned them not to settle for "a halfway compliance that covers only superficially the letter of the agreement."
On the sidelines, several political leaders of the Nicaraguan rebels tried to stage a dramatic return from here to Managua, according to one of them, Alfonso Robelo, but Nicaragua ordered airlines not to allow them to fly in.
This is the last meeting of the foreign ministers before the deadline. They hope to outline an order of events by which all five nations will begin simultaneous compliance clauses calling for cease-fires in war-torn nations, a broad amnesty for rebel fighters, peace dialogues between governments and opposition groups and an end to foreign aid to rebel armies.
Scratchy points of disagreement remained. Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel d'Escoto dismissed reports that the leftist Sandinista government might be moving closer to indirect talks with the U.S.-backed rebels, known as contras, through the mediation of Nicaragua's Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo.
The pact does not require any government to meet with armed rebels. But Nobel Peace laureate Arias has called for such talks. D'Escoto said that if any contacts were made between his government and the contras, they should not be aired publicly. He added: "When the United States stops financing the contras, then there will be a negotiated cease-fire."
Guatemalan Foreign Minister Alfonso Cabrera said there was no need for a negotiated cease-fire in his country because there was no war: "What we have is a more and more consolidated democracy," Cabrera said. Government and guerrilla representatives held a round of talks this month in Madrid that ended inconclusively.
A Honduran delegate said his government plans no measures to urge contra fighters remaining on Honduran soil to move into Nicaragua, as the pact stipulates. He asserted the publication of the text of the accords in Honduras is pressure enough on the contras.
"They can read Spanish, can't they?" he said. The contras continue to maintain an airfield, central military command and logistical base in Honduras.
Special correspondent Wilson Ring added from Tegucigalpa:
President Jose Azcona Hoyo said at a press conference that compliance with the peace process should be judged at a summit meeting in January rather than next week, and that the United States should suspend military aid to the contras to promote the peace process.
The Honduran president's statements contradicted those he made two weeks ago. He said then that if Nicaragua had not fully complied with the Guatemala accord by Nov. 7, Honduras would not ask the United States to suspend aid to the contras.
His new position, coming after a visit to Washington last week, appeared to put his government more in line with the text of the pact.