The U.S.-backed Contra rebels accepted a government proposal to hold a preliminary meeting next week that could lead to high-level talks on ending the 7-year-old civil war.

Roberto Ferrey, one of seven Contra board members, said Thursday in a telephone interview that the rebels would go to Guatemala Monday to "discuss the possibility" of resuming cease-fire talks.The leftist Sandinistas and the Contras signed an agreement March 23 to seek a negotiated settlement to the fighting, which has caused more than 28,000 deaths. But the talks broke off June 9, and each side accuses the other of cease-fire violations.

Ferrey said the decision to hold the preliminary meeting proposed by the government did not mean the high-level summit would be renewed.

"We are not going to negotiate anything," he said. "It's a contact to see if we can overcome obstacles."

For example, he said, further high-level talks cannot be held unless political opposition figures are released from prison.

Sandinista police arrested more than 40 opposition figures July 10 after an anti-government demonstration in the southern city of Nandaime.

The agreement to seek a negotiated settlement came three weeks after the United States cut off all military aid to the rebels. The pact surprised Washington and caused deep division among the rebels.