Namibia talks take new tack with shift in Angolan position

The latest round of talks on independence for Namibia (South-West Africa) appears to have been prompted by a shift in Angola's position. That position now is more in line with United States and South African demands that Cuban troops leave Angola as part of a settlement.

The outcome of Wednesday's talks between the US and South Africa, held on the Cape Verde Islands, was not known at time of writing. But senior US officials said there was ''significance'' to recent statements by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos that he had accepted the ''principle'' of a withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola.

US officials took this to mean that after a lengthy period of apparent disagreement over the issue inside the Luanda government, ''a decision has been made'' that a regional settlement including Namibia must now include an exodus of Cubans from Angola.

Angola's position in the past appeared to be that Namibia would have to become independent before Angola could decide, as a bilateral matter between itself and Cuba, to send the Cubans home. Namibia's independence would remove South Africa from Angola's southern border and thus negate the need for Cuban military assistance, Angola argued.

The issue most likely discussed Oct. 31 was the presence of South African troops in southern Angola. South Africa has been withdrawing its troops under an agreement with Angola. But the process has halted about 25 miles north of the border. South Africa has said it cannot complete the withdrawal because the SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization) insurgents fighting for Namibia from bases in Angola are still active in the border area.

The real stumbling block to South Africa's final withdrawal seems to be that all the parties concerned - the US, South Africa, and Angola - cannot agree on what the ''next step'' should be.

Pretoria wants assurances of some kind from Angola that SWAPO will be kept clear of the border area. Angola appears cool to the idea, believing South Africa should end its occupation of Namibia. The US is hoping a withdrawal will pave the way for an overall settlement including both a resolution of the Cuban issue and independence for Namibia.

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