Leftist rebels rejected the victory of right-wing candidate Alfredo Cristiani in this week's presidential elections in El Salvador but urged the Bush administration to work with the new government to promote peace.

Leaders of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, said Tuesday that Cristiani's victory in Sunday's election was invalid because only a small minority of Salvadorans had actually voted for him."Mr. Alfredo Cristiani was declared elected in an election with major abstentionism. More than 60 percent did not vote . . . or left their ballots blank," the rebels said in a statement issued in Mexico City.

"The votes in favor of Cristiani (represent) an inferior minority that is less than 20 percent of the Salvadorans," it said. "Because of all of this, the election of Alfredo Cristiani cannot be considered legitimate, politically or morally."

But the rebels urged the United States, which has poured some $3.5 billion in economic and military aid into the tiny Central American nation over this decade, to use its influence with the new government.