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South Africa Skeptical About Cuban Troop Withdrawal

February 3, 1988

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ Foreign Minister R.F. Botha said Tuesday a timetable must be set for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola before South Africa considers a U.S. peace initiative to be meaningful.

Botha, at a news conference, also said South Africa would be interested in talks with Angola’s Marxist government only if they took the form of an ″all- party conference″ that included Angolan rebels.

Botha was responding to the announcement Monday by the U.S. State Department that Angolan officials had agreed during talks last week with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker to the principle of a complete withdrawal of Cuba’s 40,000 military personnel as part of a regional settlement.

″I can really not say whether there is anything positive or constructive in the announcement ... unless I learn what is the time schedule for withdrawal,″ Botha said. ″This is the crucial factor.″

In Washington, Secretary of State George Shultz told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday that Crocker’s talks in Angola were ″an important development that holds the promise of a settlement.″

″We now look to the Angolans to table concrete and realistic schedules for a phased withdrawal of Cuban forces, so that we can take this proposal to the South Africans,″ Shultz said.

Botha said South Africa would insist on a total Cuban withdrawal from Angola before it would begin to draw up a plan for the independence of South- West Africa, also known as Namibia.

The territory, a former German colony between South Africa and Angola, is administered by South Africa under a mandate from the defunct League of Nations. South Africa has rejected United Nations resolutions demanding independence for Namibia.

Botha said Namibian political leaders and also representatives of the anti- Marxist UNITA guerrilla movement should be involved in any major regional negotiations.

UNITA - the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola - has been fighting since it lost a civil war that began after Angola received its independence from Portugal in November 1975.

South Africa has deployed some troops in Angola in support of UNITA, and the United States provides aid to the rebels.

In other developments:

Angola’s ANGOP news agency reported Angolan troops killed 1,736 UNITA guerrillas in the southeastern Moxico region last year.

The report, monitored in Lisbon, Portugal, quoted Moxico Commisioner Jaime Baptista Donge as saying 2,000 rebels surrendered last year to local authorities, ″taking advantage of our national policy of clemency.″

A UNITA statement released in Lisbon claimed rebels captured the last border town under government control in Moxico province, killing 57 soldiers and driving 100 across the border into Zambia.

The UNITA note, signed by rebel Chief of Staff Demostenes Amos Chilingutila, said rebel units overran the town of Karipande Monday after an hourlong fight.

Update hourly