Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega said he rejected a U.S. ultimatum to resign and leave Panama but was considering a Guatemalan proposal to end his country's political and economic crisis.
Guatemala said Saturday it has offered its help as mediator.Noriega, head of the country's 15,000-member Defense Forces and de facto national leader, also said Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams is "damaging the Reagan administration, misinforming it and the U.S. public about the Panamanian reality."
Noriega was interviewed in Sajalices Friday after he inaugurated a water line to the small community.
The general said William G. Walker, deputy assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, "came in with an ultimatum" in mid-March to leave in 48 hours. Noriega said he rejected it.
Walker was in Panama at the time to discuss terms under which Noriega might step down.
Noriega was indicted in Florida last February on drug trafficking charges. He calls the indictments politically motivated.
Noriega said Friday he had received what he called a "positive" proposal for a possible solution to the dispute that was submitted by Guatemalan President Vinicio Cerezo.
He did not elaborate on the proposal, but said had had listened to it with interest because, "it comes from the region, it is more in tune with Panamanian reality."
In Guatemala, presidential spokesman Julio Santos said Saturday that Cerezo "offered his mediation so that the Panamanian problem is resolved by the peaceful and diplomatic route."
"The government of Guatemala ratifies its offer to mediate the Panamanian problem," he said. He gave no details of the offer.
Guatemala's ambassador to Panama, retired Gen. Rodolfo Lobos Zamora, has been called home twice for consultations about the 3-month-old crisis, Santos said.
Sources close to Noriega who had access to the meetings with the U.S. envoys in March said the general was offered an undisclosed amount of money and immunity from extradition if he and "25 of his closest military collaborators" left the country.
Asked if he had been offered money, Noriega laughed and declined comment saying, "I do not want to make anyone's life difficult."
The general has offered to resign before Panamanian elections scheduled for May 1989 subject to what he called a "national dialogue and a Panamanian solution." He has denied Washington reports of a deal with the U.S. State Department under which he would but remain in Panama.
"There are no negotiations," he said in the interview. "We do not negotiate the dignity of a country and do not negotiate the dignity of a man."
He said he has talked with U.S. officials but not "negotiated.
Abrams, he said, has a "specific plan" of misinformation because "all his previous advice" to President Reagan "has been a failure.