Senators urge reconciliation in Angolan civil war

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Complicating the negotiations for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Angola and Namibia is Angola's 13-year civil war. Last Thursday, 30 senators - ranging across the political spectrum from liberal Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut to conservative Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina - wrote President Reagan urging that he not forget the need for ``genuine national reconciliation'' and for ``fair and free elections'' in Angola as part and parcel of negotiating the departure of all ``Soviets, Cubans, and South Africans.''

Echoing concerns raised about support for the Afghan resistance when an Afghanistan agreement was in the works, the senators urged that US aid to UNITA not be cut ``simply because a process of reconciliation begins.'' (US aid has amounted to $15 million in covert assistance for each of the last two years.)

The senators asked the President to ``vigorously pursue'' a solution during the upcoming Moscow summit.

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Since 1975, UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) has fought the MPLA (Popular Liberation Movement of Angola), which controls the government. UNITA receives substantial aid from South Africa and covert support from some others, in addition to the US.

The MPLA demands that all foreign aid to UNITA be ended as part of any package on troop withdrawal. South Africa demands that UNITA be satisfied with any deal that is struck.

The Reagan administration believes reconciliation is needed, but should be treated as a ``parallel process'' to the troop withdrawal talks, says a senior US official.

``Our relationship with UNITA is not on the table,'' the US official says. Angola's civil war should be worked out between the Angolans themselves, not ``with 40 people around the table'' or clouded by international maneuverings. If the US is asked to play a role in getting the MPLA and UNITA together, it will, he says. But so far no one has asked.

The Angolan government has rebuffed several mediation offers from African countries. Officially it continues to reject any possibility of negotiating directly with UNITA.

UNITA seeks direct negotiations leading to a cease-fire, a transitional government, and free elections.

UNITA and MPLA representatives have ``bumped into each other in third capitals,'' says a US official. The contacts have been informal, often among relatives, he says, but they reinforce the impression that sentiment for a negotiated solution is growing within the MPLA.

US officials say that progress in the talks on troop withdrawal could encourage the two Angolan sides to sit down together.

The US does not want to give Angola or South Africa an opening to use the UNITA issue to scuttle the still-fragile troop-withdrawal talks. Last week's Senate letter, however, demonstrates the domestic US pressure to ensure that UNITA not be abandoned.

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