Political leaders Tuesday rejected a rebel proposal that called for a postponement of presidential elections set for March 19 in return for the guerrillas ceasing hostilities in the country's 9-year-old civil war.

"We cannot accept changing the election date because we would be giving up legality for anarchy," said Ricardo Alvarenga, president of the National Assembly.Alvarenga, leader of the rightist Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), which holds a majority in the Assembly, said his party's refusal to postpone the March 19 presidential elections should not be considered "hard-nosed."

"We are trying to be consistent and to keep the democratic process within a constitutional framework," Alvarenga said.

The leftist rebels, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), offered Jan. 23, to call off hostilities if the election were postponed for at least six months.

President Jose Napoleon Duarte's administration has said his government was willing to postpone elections until April 30, but he was voted down by ARENA.