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Central America sees increase in fighting since peace plan

Despite the signing of a Central American peace plan in August, an increase in fighting has been reported in the region's three wars. The Salvadorean military, the Guatemalan Army, and the Nicaraguan contra rebels all launched major offensives this past fall. Nicaragua's Defense Ministry said 7,304 people died last year in government-rebel fighting. This was the highest annual figure since the war began six years ago.

Salvadorean officials said fighting between the government and guerrillas left at least 1,500 dead and 2,700 wounded last year. Although the total was slightly lower than in 1986, Army casualties were higher.

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In Guatemala, no casualty statistics were reported but both government and rebels said the war's tempo had picked up. The first direct talks between the two sides in 27 years broke down without prospect of resumption.

``As far as the fighting is concerned, the Guatemala accord has been a dismal failure,'' said a Latin diplomat who monitors Central America.

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