Peace Talks Between Angola, Rebels End Without Accord
LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Angola’s government and U.S.-backed rebels broke off peace talks in failure as they were on the verge of signing a plan to end the country’s 16-year-old civil war.
The ceremonial signing was postponed Friday because the government suggested changes that were rejected by UNITA, the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, according to a statement by a joint mediation team of Portuguese, Americans and Soviets.
Diplomats said the leftist government’s delegation proposed setting a firm cease-fire date and concrete steps towards changing Angola’s political makeup that went beyond the scope of an earlier plan approved by both sides.
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said Friday his government proposed that a cease-fire agreement be signed on April 15, the Angolan state news agency reported.
The rebel group said the peace plan, which is more general in scope, should be signed first, with proposals for the cease-fire and other specific matters discussed at later meetings.
The mediation team statement, read by Portuguese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jose Alberto de Sousa, urged the two sides to ″study dates for the signing of a cease-fire and period in which elections can be carried out.″
The statement said mediators will meet in Lisbon on March 4 to prepare a new meeting between the Angolan factions.
Fighting in the southern Africa nation continued this week, with rebel attacks on oil-production facilities in northern Angola and clashes in central provinces. The war that began when Portuguese colonial rule ended in 1975 has killed an estimated 200,000 to 350,000 people.
The talks this week, the sixth held in Portugal since April, had been expected to end with the two sides initialing the peace plan that would have set a framework for a cease-fire and principles for a transition to multiparty democracy. The plan was not designed to bring an immediate halt to the fighting, but to prepare for the later signing of a formal cease-fire, diplomats said.
Chief Angolan government negotiator Lopo de Nascimento told reporters differences between the two sides were slight, ″but the documents are not ready to be signed.″
UNITA Vice President Jeremias Chitunda, who heads the rebel delegation, declined to comment.
Angola is rich in oil, diamonds and other minerals, and potentially self- sufficient in food. But is has been wracked by war. Famine now threatens 20 percent of its population of 10 million.
Angola and other former Portuguese colonies in Africa, including Mozambique and Cape Verde, began moving toward multiparty democracy in the past year. Marxist parties had governed since their independence in the 1970s.