Embargo on UNITA Viewed As Ineffective

A YEAR after its first multiparty elections, Angola is descending ever deeper into a vicious civil war with little prospect of relief.

The imposition of a United Nations arms and oil embargo Sept. 26 on Jonas Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) is seen in diplomatic circles as a largely symbolic move unlikely to have much impact on UNITA.

``The only move that would have an immediate impact on UNITA would be for Western governments to deny UNITA officials travel facilities - effectively closing down UNITA's offices in Western capitals,'' a European diplomat says. ``This would effectively cut UNITA's lines to the outside world.... But it is a controversial move to make.''

Aid workers say that an estimated 100,000 people have died in fighting since last year's election, and UN officials claim that up to 1,000 people a day are dying.

Mr. Savimbi indicated in an interview Sept. 24 in the French newspaper Le Monde that he regards the 1991 Bicesse Peace accords, which paved the way for the election in September last year, as ``dead.''

In what amounts to a total breakdown of trust, the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government regards UNITA's latest maneuvering as a smoke screen behind which to escalate its military attacks. ``UNITA's cease-fire is not for real,'' says an Angolan diplomat in Pretoria. ``They are not interested in negotiations.''

The government wants UNITA to relinquish its post-election military gains and accept the status quo of MPLA rule. UNITA is prepared to relinquish its gains only if UN peacekeeping forces fill the vacuum.

Government military officials failed to arrive for peace talks in Sao Tome Sept. 24 after a UNITA military delegation arrived. According to Western diplomats, the MPLA is now committed to a military solution to the current impasse and believes it can drive UNITA rebels out of the towns and cities and force them into a settlement.

The Sept. 15 deadline for UNITA to return to peace talks was extended after the rebels declared a unilateral cease-fire Sept. 20 and said they were prepared to return to talks.

But fighting in Cuito has continued despite the cease-fire, say aid workers in the capital Luanda, and UNITA has launched several recent attacks in southern Huila province.

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