US and allies push to settle Namibia conflict

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

The US and its allies are planning another diplomatic push to secure a settlement in Namibia (South-West Africa), State Department officials say.

A well-placed State Department official acknowledged that efforts to resolve the complex Namibia conflict had recently encountered a ''temporary logjam.'' But he asserted that a state of flux existing throughout the region might make it more possible than ever before for the parties to the conflict to overcome their differences.

At the same time, apparently in warning, the official indicated that there were limits to US patience on the issue. He said that should what he described as a ''golden moment'' to achieve a settlement be lost this year, it would probably be impossible to retrieve it.

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The aim of the five Western nations, known as the ''contact group'' -- Canada , Britain, France, West Germany, and the United States -- has been to begin implementation of a Namibia settlement in 1982.

Namibia, a mostly desert, Texas-size territory with a population of about a million, is rich in diamonds and uranium. It is controlled by white-governed South Africa in defiance of the United Nations. The Reagan administration hopes that negotiations leading to Namibian independence will also lead to a withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and a reduction of Soviet influence in the region. The South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), which has been fighting the South Africans in Namibia, is supported by the Soviets and Cubans.

At the moment, the Namibia negotiations are stalled over the Western proposal for the election of a constituent assembly under which half the delegates would be chosen by direct election and half by proportional representation. SWAPO and black-governed states in the region have opposed the proposal, apparently worried it would undercut SWAPO control.

A State Department official said, meanwhile, that the West's new diplomatic drive would consist of a ''contact group'' mission to those states and direct talks with SWAPO's leader, Sam Nujoma.

The official indicated that South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha's victory over his extreme right-wing opponents in a recent party parliamentary caucus might give Mr. Botha the freedom to move more decisively toward a Namibia settlement. The official also said that Angola had much to gain from a settlement, partly because its dependence on the Soviet Union and Cuba had ''delivered zilch'' in economic terms. He said that the US was prepared, as part of a settlement, to aid Angola in its ''national reconstruction.''

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