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President Jose Napoleon Duarte could provoke a military coup if he accepts a proposal by leftist guerrillas to postpone next month's presidential election, the defense minister warned.

"If the president retains power beyond the end of his term, the armed forces would be obliged to depose him - either the armed forces or the legislative assembly," Defense Minister Gen. Carlos Vides Casanova told reporters Monday.The insurgents issued the proposal on Jan. 24 and Duarte said the following day that he would not remain in power beyond June 1 under any circumstances.