Namibian Independence Back on Track, US Says

THINGS are looking up in southwestern Africa. US officials say Namibia's independence process is back on track and diplomatic progress to end Angola's civil war is evident. In Namibia, the United Nations will probably be able to make up time lost when about 1,700 guerrilla fighters from the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) violated commitments and crossed into Namibia April 1, US officials say.

More than 300 guerrillas and 27 police and soldiers died in subsequent clashes that threatened to disrupt the UN-guided Namibian independence plan and the US-mediated regional peace accord signed last December. The surviving guerrillas are reportedly back in Angola, and efforts will be made to keep them there until after Namibia's November elections. In Angola, US officials say last week's eight-country summit in Luanda might have produced a ``breakthrough'' in solving its 14-year civil war.

``My feeling is that the various factions in Angola are on the verge now of reaching a negotiated settlement,'' said Herman Cohen, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, last Friday. Initial diplomatic reports on the summit say Angola's government has, for the first time, accepted the idea of a negotiated solution instead of the amnesty program it offered earlier. By agreeing to the meeting, the government has also accepted a role for neighboring states in the solution process, they say.

A Washington spokesman for the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) says he has seen nothing yet to confirm a breakthrough. He notes, however, that the public communiqu'e from the Luanda summit includes for the first time reference to the need for ``reconciliation'' in Angola - this is the term UNITA uses in seeking a negotiated end to the fighting.

US officials say they are not sure what will happen next in the still-nascent peace process since the African nations are taking the lead. They suspect one or more countries may become mediators.

The Luanda summit also called for an end to US covert aid to UNITA. But Ambassador Cohen said the US would not stop its aid until a negotiated settlement takes place. The US also will not suspend its limited aid to UNITA as long as the Soviet Union continues to heavily arm Angola's government, officials say. Promoting peace in Angola will be an important topic in US-Soviet discussions on Africa set for next week in Europe.

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