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MEXICO’S INDIAN REBELS REJECT PEACE OFFER BUT VOW TO HOLD FIRE

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Mexico's rebels have rejected a government peace offer but pledged not to resume fighting if this summer's presidential elections lead to democratic reform. But they warned the vote had better be clean.

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari responded late Sunday through his peace envoy that the army will continue holding fire in southern Chiapas state where the Indian revolt erupted Jan. 1."I wish I could have come here tonight with the good news of a peace accord, but it just wasn't so," said envoy Manuel Camacho Solis at a Mexico City news conference late Sunday night.

The 19-page "declaration" by the Zapatista National Liberation Army, issued over the weekend, was only the second since the guerrillas declared war on the government.

But despite no new vows of violence, the announcement stirred growing unease in a nation under unprecedented calls to achieve democratic reform. The presidential election is scheduled Aug. 21.

"Democratic change is the only alternative to war," said the declaration, signed by the guerrilla leader Subcomandante Marcos. "Whether by suicide or by firing squad, the death of the current political system is a necessary condition for a transition to democracy in our nation."

Mexico has been ruled for 65 years by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which is widely accused of fraud and vote rigging.