No increase in immediate US military aid for El Salvador

By , Latin America correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Any increase in United States military assistance to El Salvador has been ruled out at least for the time being. In fact, there is a possibility that US military aid to the embattled Central American country could be scaled down slightly in the coming months as some of the remaining 48 US military advisers on the scene are pulled out.

This is part of the message that new Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Thomas O. Enders will be presenting this week in a major policy speech on El Salvador -- a talk regarded here as a clear statement of Reagan administration policy on events in the civil-war-scarred country.

It is also the message that administration officials are trying to get across before Mr. Enders talks July 16.

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Secretary Enders is expected to announce limited new economic aid measures aimed at bolstering Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte. The Reagan administration is expected to request Congress to approve $25 million in military aid and $75 million in economic assistance.

While 1982 fiscal year aid will be kept to approximately this year's level, a significant increase in military aid over the long term is under discussion. Such aid could involve providing El Salvador with US-built fighter-bombers and nearly doubling the size of the Salvadoran Army.

This support for the Duarte government is seen here as a firm US commitment continuing Washington's overall effort to shore up that government -- an effort that began under President Carter more than a year ago.

At the same time, Mr. Enders is expected to indicate that the Duarte government needs to pay more attention to its human-rights image. Washington remains disturbed by the continuing reports of barbarous treatment of Salvadoran civilians by the country's military.

The words used by Mr. Enders are likely to be less shrill than those used by the Carter administration on the same issue, but the meaning is expected to be clear: The Duarte government must clean up its act.

This concern over human rights has been conveyed in increasingly strong language to President Duarte and to the Salvadoran military by the US Embassy in San Salvador -- and the Enders speech will firm up this concern, albeit in cautious words. The new team in Washington wants to circulate the message that it shares with the Carter administration deep concern about the human-rights performance of the Salvadoran military.

The Enders speech has been awaited here for days. Over the weekend, television reports surfaced indicating that Mr. Enders would call for increased US military assistance in El Salvador. The State Department, however, denies this.

Moreover, those who have worked with Mr. Enders on the speech are upset about reports that the talk will announce stepped-up military assistance because, as one put it, "They are not true."

Military aid to El Salvador requires congressional approval, it is pointed out here, and there is little enthusiasm on Capitol Hill for stepped-up aid to Central America in general and El Salvador in particular.

The administration could use its authority under Resolution 506 to unilaterally increase military aid for emergency reasons. But even then it would have to subsequently defend its action.

Given the administration's desire to get a variety of domestic economic legislation through Congress, it is unlikely that it would risk that legislation by asking for stepped-up aid to El Salvador when there is such relatively little congressional support for the effort.

Behind the flurry of reports about such increased aid is a statement by the new US Ambassador in El Salvador, Deane R. Hinton, who last week said that he would recommend, at the request of the Salvadorans, that the US provide more arms aid as some of the military advisers return home.

There is some confusion here over whether President Duarte himself has asked for any more military assistance. El Salvador's military leaders have reportedly asked for more military assistance.

President Duarte is quoted here as saying that the economic situation is even more critical than the military situation, and he has suggested that Washington can help most by providing economic assistance.

At least for the mome nt, Washington appears to accept this assessment.

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