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Regional parliament aim is to aid C. America unity

Another cog in the complex machinery of Central American peace is scheduled to turn today, as a high-level meeting convenes to discuss plans for a regional parliament. Five Central American vice-presidents are gathering in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, to thrash out details of the proposed body.

The Aug. 7 Central America peace plan foresees elections for the parliament before the end of next June. The elections will be especially important to critics of Nicaragua's Sandinista government, as a test of Managua's pledge to submit itself to a popular vote.

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Guatemalan President Marco Vinicio Cerezo Ar'evalo first launched the idea of a Central American parliament last year. At the regional presidential summit, in May 1986, he won endorsement for the plan. But it soon lost momentum.

Although the goal of drawing up a treaty to create the parliament within 90 days was soon abandoned, the vice-presidents of Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala have continued to work on the project at sporadic meetings. The plan gained new impetus with the peace accord last month when the region's leaders committed themselves anew to the parliament. They gave their vice-presidents five months to come up with a treaty to create the parliament.

The parliament's role is still far from clear, but its importance lies mostly in its symbolism. The Guatemala plan describes it as ``a symbol of the freedom, the independence, and the reconciliation to which we aspire in Central America.''

An assembly elected jointly by the peoples of Central America would also represent a small step toward the goal of regional unity that has remained but a dream for more than a century and a half.

A short-lived Central American Federation, in the 1820s, soon foundered on the rocks of mutual mistrust. Those rocks have proved unavoidable to even the most innocuous and well-meaning attempts at integration, such as the Central American Common Market, in the 1960s. It plan failed because of the lack of political cooperation that has long plagued the region. One of the putative parliament's main aims would be to strengthen such cooperation, Mr. Cerezo says.

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