WHEN news of the historic breakthrough in the long civil war in El Salvador finally came, it came suddenly and with a broad smile on the face of the man who helped make it happen.United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar was sitting at the head of the Security Council table Wednesday, listening to a ministerial-level debate on the situation in Yugoslavia. (See story, Page 4.) At 5:25 p.m., his special assistant on talks to resolve the civil war in El Salvador, Alvaro de Soto, approached and crouched down for a few minutes of conversation. The two men strode out of the Council chamber. Half an hour later, the UN chief returned, beaming. He sat down and wrote a note that he passed to Cuban Foreign Minister Isidoro Malmierca, who was listening to the Yugoslav debate. After reading the message, Mr. Malmierca turned to the secretary-general and gave him a thumbs up. Mr. Perez de Cuellar then wrote another note and sent it around to the other side of the Council table to United States Secretary of State James Baker III. Mr. Baker read the note, smiled broadly, and made an OK sign. In the time he had been gone, the secretary-general had presided over the signing of a broad agreement between the government of El Salvador and commanders of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN. Perez de Cuellar told journalists that after marathon negotiations, "the Gordian knot has been untied." He said efforts would continue on pending "substantive matters" and toward agreement on "a brief, dynamic cease-fire." The accord does not call for a cease-fire. FMLN commanders noted in a new conference later Wednesday evening that the talks had actually lasted "10 days and 10 nights."
Pact provisions Details of the pact include: * A new civilian police force is to replace the military-led police. The force will be open to participation by FMLN members. * Human rights abusers will be weeded out of the armed forces by a new commission. * Both sides agreed to reduce the size of the Army. The agreement also calls for redefinition of armed forces doctrine and military education. * The government agreed to protect the rights of guerrilla families and sympathizers to hold onto lands they have occupied since early in the war and to redistribute some state land to peasants and poor farmers. * Establishment of a National Commission for the Consolidation of Peace within eight days of a cease-fire to supervise implementation of peace accords. The commission will be made up of two representatives from the government, two from the FMLN, and one member of each political party in El Salvador's legislature. The archbishop of San Salvador and a representative of the UN observer mission in El Salvador will serve as monitors. The UN has been involved for the past 18 months in efforts to end the civil war, which has killed an estimated 75,000 people. The Salvadoran government has already agreed to a UN role in monitoring human rights and in limited constitutional reform.
Presidential role Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani led his delegation to the talks through Tuesday; the accords were signed Wednesday by Salvadoran Justice Minister Oscar Santamaria. A breakthrough was achieved Saturday, when guerrilla leaders dropped their demand that FMLN fighters be incorporated at all levels into the Army. Instead, the guerrillas were given the right to join a reorganized national civil police force. FMLN leader Schafik Handal said the main achievement in New York had been creation of the Nation al Commission for a Consolidated Peace. "It's the expression of one point for which the FMLN has long struggled: the predominance of civilian society after 60 years of submission to armed forces hegemony," he said. His delegation was also pleased with steps toward agricultural reforms.
Next meeting The two sides are to meet again in Mexico on Oct. 12 to try to reach agreement on a "compressed agenda" that could lead to a cease-fire. Meanwhile, he said, the FMLN has proposed that both parties create a good atmosphere for further steps by observing a truce, though there has been recent heavy fighting.