Portugal tries to help Angola meet new friends

The efforts of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to broaden Angola's list of friends appear to be paying off.

The Angolans have just completed a second round of talks with US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker on their long-cherished dream of US recognition of the Luanda regime.

Although Luanda's state-controlled news media kept a discreet silence about the latest talks in Paris between Mr. Crocker and Angolan Foreign Minister Paulo Jorge (the second such meeting in seven weeks), a visit to the Angolan capital by Chase Manhattan's David Rockefeller was given maximum publicity.

And it was with a likely nod from Peking that Portugal's last colonial outpost, Macao, recently offered a $15 million credit line to Angola. This comes at a time when Luanda faces a severe shortage of foreign exchange. Macao rarely makes a move without consulting China, and the Angolan credit line, the first ever granted by the territory, is seen as an effort by Peking to mend relations with a regime that has reached a new crossroads.

China backed the losing side in the Angolan civil war. The result is that the Chinese, just like the Americans, do not have diplomatic relations with Angola. A first step toward a political reconciliation came last year when an Angolan delegation visited the Canton trade fair.

There have been other developments favorable to President dos Santos in recent weeks.

Only a short time after he negotiated the establishment of diplomatic relations with Senegal - the last remaining black state to recognize officially Jonas Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) - Dakar signed a joint communique with another ex-Portuguese colony, Cape Verde, expressing full support for Angola.

It was something the Angolans could never have dreamed of while ex-President Leopold Senghor ruled Senegal.

The official Angolan news agency, Angop, commenting on the significance of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Senegal, said it was a proof that ''in spite of being represented before world public opinion as a center for exporting revolution to Africa -- due to the presence of the Cuban internationalists here and our country's socialist option -- the People's Republic of Angola maintains its African vocation and can establish good relations with any country of this continent or of the world, independently of its ideology.''

The same commentary reserved words of unusual warmth for Angola's pro-American neighbor, Zaire, saying the reconciliation between the two countries had been ''sensational.'' Angola is at present trying to negotiate the reopening of another of its frontier posts with Zaire at Kimbata-Kimpangu, 192 miles south of Kinshasa.

What the Angolans seem to have realized is that the best way of guaranteeing their security is to impress on their neighbors Luanda's stability -- whether by increasing economic ties or even just cross-border traffic.

Probably the most traumatic part of any reconciliation with the West will be making peace with the country that ruled Angola for 500 years. Only now -- six years after independence -- is a Portuguese foreign minister making an official visit to the People's Republic of Angola.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Andre Goncalves Pereira, who is shortly to be followed by the president and prime minister of Portugal, represents in many ways the best advocate the Luanda regime can hope for to persuade Western skeptics that this African country is not as deeply committed to the Kremlin, Marxist-Leninist, and Cuban troops as it looks.

The Portuguese are acutely aware that their own economic and even political future to a large extent depends on how well they can get on with their former colonies in Africa, particularly with the richest of them -- Angola.

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