Congressman Says Pilot To Be Released From Angola This Weekend
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The father of an American pilot held for two months in Angola said he was told by a lawmaker Tuesday that his son is expected home this weekend.
Bernie Longo, the father of pilot Joseph Longo of Greensburg, Pa., said that Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., told him that an agreement had been reached between the African nation and the U.S. government.
″I have no idea about how he’s coming home, where he’s going or who is going to take him,″ the elder Longo said in a telephone interview. ″All I know is that the transfer has been agreed to. That was the word I heard - ‘transfer.’ ″
Bill Allen, spokesman for Murtha, said word of the agreement to free Longo came from Rep. Howard Wolpe, D-Mich., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that deals with African issues.
″I don’t know that the details of the release have been worked out yet,″ Allen said. ″Our No. 1 goal has been to get Joe Longo out, and now we want to do it as smoothly as possible.″
Allen said there was a possibility that a congressional delegation would be dispatched to Angola, where Longo’s Beechcraft airplane apparently strayed on April 21 and was forced down. Longo had been hired by Pilot International in Wichita, Kan., to deliver the plane to a South African firm.
Murtha’s announcement followed a series of negotiations which saw Angolan officials involved at varying times with lawmakers, the State Department and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Jackson had said during a speech Friday night that the vice minister of foreign affairs had agreed to release Longo on condition that Jackson travel to Angola bring him back. Jackson, an unannounced presidential candidate, said that condition was later dropped.
Frank Watkins, a Jackson spokesman, said Tuesday that Jackson, too, ″does not know the details of the release. The best we could come by was that it is imminent.″
The negotiations over Longo came as Angola sent a delegation here for private talks on the Reagan administration’s position toward the Marxist Angolan government and U.S. support for the rebel forces there.
Despite the talks, which ended last week, the two countries do not have diplomatic relations. Italian officials offered to act as go-betweens to check on Longo’s condition, but a meeting was never finally approved by the Angolans.
The elder Longo said Tuesday that he and the firm that owns the plane had put up an undisclosed sum of money to pay for the pilot’s trip home.