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Italians Unable To Meet With American Pilot Held In Angola, Father Says

June 13, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An American pilot held in Angola for seven weeks has not been permitted to meet with Italian officials acting as go-betweens, the pilot’s father says.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., said Friday he is scheduling a meeting Tuesday with members of an Angolan delegation in an effort to secure the freedom of the pilot, Joseph Longo, of Greensburg, Pa.

Longo, 33, had been hired by Pilot International in Wichita, Kan., to deliver a Beechcraft airplane to a South African firm when he apparently strayed over Angola. He was forced down April 21, 78 miles north of the South African border.

The Angolan delegation began talks with Reagan administration officials here Thursday on the administration’s position toward the Marxist Angolan government and U.S. support for the rebel forces in that nation.

Longo’s father, Bernie, said in an interview that the State Department had told him Italian officials acting on behalf of the United States were supposed to have met with his son before the end of this week.

″The thing that bothers me is that the Italians in Angola were to see my son a couple weeks ago, and then they set it for last Monday and it was postponed. The authorities then said they would be able to see my son later this week, but this is Friday,″ he said.

Rob Callard of the State Department confirmed that a time had been set for a meeting last Monday, but that it was scrapped by the Angolans, who said it would occur later in the week.

Heinz’s office was told by the department late Friday afternoon that no meeting had occurred and that none was now scheduled.

″It’s been really hard. It’s been joy, then pain practically at the same time,″ Callard said. The purpose of the proposed visit was to check up on Longo and deliver mail.

Bernie Longo said he has been writing to his son each week through Italian government officials, but has gotten no response. ″No one has seen him and no one has talked to him,″ he said.

The father said he hoped his son might be released as a goodwill gesture by Angola. Pedro Van Dunem, the nation’s No. 2 official, said here Thursday that Angola wants to open diplomatic relations with the United States.

Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker met Thursday night with Van Dunem for an informal discussion of ″the full range of Angolan-U.S. issues, including our efforts to achieve a negotiated agreement″ on the Namibian issue, said department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley.

The next session of talks with the Angolan government on implementing a U.N. Security Council resolution on independence for South-West Africa, or Namibia, is likely in the next few weeks, she said.

Independence for Namibia, ruled by South Africa, is linked to withdrawal of an estimated 35,000 Cuban military forces from Angola, on Namibia’s northern border.

Longo has been charged with no crime in Angola, ″at least as far as we know,″ Callard said.

″He is a pilot who transports small aircraft for private customers,″ Heinz said Friday. ″He is not involved in any cloak-and-dagger intrigue. Whatever confusion led to Mr. Longo’s presence in Angola, there is no reason to detain him there.″

More than 12,000 Pennsylvanians have written Longo’s family to register support, Heinz said.

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