Angola, S. Africa hold first top-level talks on Namibia

Face-to-face talks between Angola and South Africa this week over Namibian independence are a hopeful sign, but not necessarily a breakthrough, say analysts here.

Officials of the two countries met Wednesday in the Cape Verde Islands in the first ministerial-level talks since Angolan independence in 1975.

The talks - which involved South Africa's ministers of foreign affairs and defense, and Angola's minister of the interior - are significant because South Africa has insisted that some 20,000 Cuban troops in Angola be sent home as a condition for Namibian independence. Angola has said the Cubans will stay until the threat of South African border incursions into Angola from Namibia is removed.

The meeting comes at a time when the latest Western initiative to free Namibia from South African control has stalled over Pretoria's demands that Cuban troops be withdrawn. This issue has strained the Western ''contact group'' (United States, Britain, Canada, West Germany, and France) effort and raised apprehensions that the entire initiative could collapse.

Because of the impasse over the Cuban issue, the Cape Verde talks are viewed here with a mixture of hope that they may revive the negotiations and skepticism that the obstacles can be quickly overcome.

''This looks more like a rescue effort than a breakthrough of any kind,'' said one knowledgeable source.

Still, direct Angola-South Africa talks are seen as potentially productive, given the deep antagonism between the two countries.

South Africa's invasion of Angola in 1975 and its continued backing of rebels seeking to overthrow the Angola government make Pretoria's aims regarding the Cubans suspect in the eyes of Angola. For its part, South Africa sees Soviet influence in southern Africa through the Cubans as a threat to its existence. There have been secret meetings between Angola and South Africa in recent years, but this is the first high-level meeting.

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