If the United States steps up aid to Angolan rebels, the Angolan government would be justified in calling on ``friendly countries'' -- including Cuba and the Soviet Union -- for more troops and military assistance, warns Angola's ambassador to the United Nations. The ambassador, Elisio de Figueiredo, suggests that by supporting the guerrillas, Washington would be destabilizing the Angolan government, supporting South African aggression against neighboring countries, and helping spread apartheid in the region.
In an interview coinciding with visit to the US by guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi, Mr. Figueiredo also said, ``Savimbi's UNITA [National Union for the Total Independence of Angola] consists of no more than a band of mercenaries. Savimbi himself is a traitor, a bandit, and South Africa's stooge, whose claims to represent the Angolan people are `spurious.' ''
Despite Pretoria's disclaimers, South African troops continue to occupy parts of southern Angola, and, claims Figueiredo, ``are doing all the fighting'' for UNITA.
Although Angola is prepared to ``talk and negotiate'' about independence for Namibia with the US, everything hinges on South Africa's implementation of UN Resolution 435, which calls for elections in South African-administered Namibia. Angola believes the UN plan should be implemented without linkage to other issues. The US and South Africa contend that Namibian independence can only come as part of a package settlement that would include the withdrawal of an estimated 30,000 Cuban troops from Angola and the withdrawal of South Africa from Namibia.
Recent talks in Luanda, the capital of Angola, between the Angolans and Chester A. Crocker, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, were unproductive because ``he [Crocker] seemed more interested in helping'' and South Africa, says Figueiredo.
UNITA military operations are confined largely to areas in southeast Angola. On the issue of the estimated 30,000 Cuban troops and 1,200 Soviet advisers in Angola, Figueiredo repeatedly emphasized that as a sovereign government, ``We have a right to protect ourselves'' under UN charter provisions. While declining to confirm the figures, he said that Angola's position was reaffirmed by the Organization of African Unity heads of state at their most recent conference. He said the OAU agreed that any US overt or covert aid to the UNITA-South African forces in Angola would be considered an act hostile to the OAU.
The ambassador conceded that with South Africa's support, UNITA constitutes a threat to the Angolan government. But he charged, ``Without Pretoria's help, Savimbi couldn't last a month. Savimbi is South Africa.''
Figueiredo declined to estimate the amount of territory occupied by UNITA or the specific aid provided to it by South Africa. But he said that the UNITA lobby in Washington has been able to provide the guerrillas with $600,000 a year pipelined through South Africa. The lobby, he said, is totally financed via Pretoria. All of UNITA's weaponry, ``tanks, rocketry, artillery,'' is provided by South Africa, he said.
As for the US attitude toward Angola's Marxist government, Figueiredo said, ``Certain quarters in this country may not like the government, but that does not affect its legitimacy.''