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US official: American role in Central America to rise

The Reagan administration is signaling that it wants to further expand its backing of anti-communist forces in Central America. Undersecretary of Defense Fred Ikle, returning from a visit to Central America, told reporters last week that an increased military role in Costa Rica and Honduras was in the offing. Some 4,000 US troops are now in Honduras on prolonged maneuvers due to end in February, but Ikle said the exercises might be extended. The head of the Honduran armed forces said discussions are under way to set up a joint American-Honduran military base for permanent training and to protect Honduras.

Ikle also said as many as 1,000 military engineers might be sent to Costa Rica to help with projects such as road work. This would put 5,000 US troops near Nicaragua's borders with Honduras and Costa Rica.

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Ikle also told reporters more military aid to El Salvador was needed to help the government regain the initiative against leftist rebels.

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