Honduras poses obstacle to verifying Central America's peace plan. PEACE PLAN IN TROUBLE
The Central America peace plan is running into serious trouble in Honduras - the country that is the Reagan administration's closest ally in the region and the one where the contra rebels are based. The Honduran government is refusing to allow inspectors to check that it is keeping its promises under the pact, according to a report by a group involved in checking such compliance.
This stance, the confidential document concludes, makes verification of security aspects of the Aug. 7 peace agreement impossible.
The report was prepared by a technical group of the International Verification and Follow-up Commission (known by its Spanish acronym CIVS), formed to ensure that five Central American nations comply with their obligations under the pact.
That plan requires Honduras to cease offering sanctuary to Nicaraguan contra rebels, who are known to have established base camps, communications networks, and logistical centers in Honduras.
But the CIVS mission reported that Tegucigalpa would not allow in situ inspection of its territory until the five Central American governments have concluded an agreement on mutual arms limitation. ``This is potentially an extremely bad sign,'' said one official closely involved in the verification process. An arms agreement is foreseen under the peace pact, but no time frame has been set. ``It could go on ad infinitum,'' the official said. ``And Honduras is in a position to stall the arms talks.''
At a meeting last Friday in New York, the CIVS - comprised of foreign ministers from five Central American nations, eight Latin American countries, and the secretary-generals of the United Nations and the Organization of American States - agreed to send a mission to the region in early January to check compliance with political obligations under the peace pact. But they took no action on the technical mission's report that ``it is clear that the conditions to suggest concrete steps toward in situ inspection do not exist.''
The 30-man team ``will ask governments pertinent political questions about security issues, but they won't be observing compliance as such,'' the official said.
The Central American Presidents set up the CIVS to verify their steps toward the peace plan's five key goals: democratization, amnesty for political prisoners, cease-fires, an end to outside aid for rebels, and halting the rebels' use of regional territory.
The commission was to have begun its inspection a month ago and be ready to report to a presidential summit scheduled for Jan. 15, 1988. But so far it has only sent its technical team on two trips to the region, which led to a ``basically negative outcome,'' the team report said.
Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica are all in favor of establishing mobile inspection teams in the region by the end of the year, the report said, while Guatemala warned that its congress must approve any inspection team visits.
But the Honduran government is tying territorial inspections to full democratization in Nicaragua, the report states. Tegucigalpa also sees regional arms limitation as part of the peace plan's ``harmonious whole,'' and is insisting that there be no verification without simultaneous compliance with all the plan's provisions.
Even then, the report says, Honduras is offering the CIVS access only ``so long as this does not compromise the regular activities of the armed forces or requirements imposed by security motives.''
Many of the contras' communications and supply bases are known to have been established in Honduran Army camps, such as the Palmerola and Aguacate Air Force bases, and in military installations on the Swan Islands.
Honduras's insistence on simultaneity, has frustrated officials seeking to verify the treaty. The country's refusal to allow in situ inspection until other aspects of the plan are in place means ``the notion of simultaneity, a fundamental ingredient of the accord, could nonetheless become its Achilles heel,'' the CIVS report warns.
Resolving that problem is crucial. If it is not solved, the CIVS team warns, ``compliance with the accord as a whole will probably be bogged down.''