Savimbi offers to open rail link

Rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, in what he says is an attempt to end Angola's prolonged civil war, is offering to allow the reopening of a key rail link that his forces have kept out of operation for years. In a statement issued late last week through his Washington office, Mr. Savimbi said he would permit the reopening of the Benguela Railroad to demonstrate the rebels' interest in national reconciliation - so long as the railroad is not used for military purposes.

Savimbi, whose forces have been fighting Angola's ``Marxist'' government for more than a decade, proposed that this condition be monitored by an international inspection group.

US officials, who asked not to be identified, said the reopening of Benguela could help Zambia, Zaire, and Zimbabwe, which have been relying increasingly on South Africa as a transit point for their exports. This reliance has been a major obstacle blocking southern African nations from imposing economic sanctions on Pretoria in a bid to push South Africa toward ending its system of racial segregation. As an alternative to South Africa as a transit point, aid donor nations have been trying to develop a transport link through Mozambique.

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