Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos has announced he will not run for another term in elections scheduled for next year.
President dos Santos made the surprise announcement at a news conference after a meeting of leaders of his ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. He told reporters he had accomplished his mission, and somebody else will be the party's candidate in next year's presidential elections.
The Angolan leader also indicated that those elections might not take place on schedule. He said they could be held in early 2003, rather than late 2002, as planned. He indicated there can be no elections until there is peace in Angola a prospect that many observers say is a long way off.
A team of State Department observers recently visited Angola to evaluate the country's readiness to hold elections. The team leader said that although most Angolans want elections, the right conditions do not exist now, and he could not predict when the situation would be right for the voting to go ahead.
Mr. dos Santos was elected in 1992, in Angola's first and only multi-party presidential election. It is not clear who might replace him as ruling party leader and become the candidate for president.
A civil war has raged in Angola almost non-stop since it won independence from Portugal in 1975. The president's announcement comes amid an upsurge in fighting.
UNITA rebels have launched a new offensive against government positions in recent weeks. In the most devastating incident, more than 250-people died when UNITA attacked a train.
It is not clear how Mr. dos Santos' announcement will affect the Angolan civil war. Some analysts have theorized that it could boost the peace process
In a similar development in neighboring Zambia, the ruling party confirmed that President Frederick Chiluba would not run for a controversial third term. Mr. Chiluba's information minister told reporters the ruling party candidate would be former vice president Levy Mwanawasa.
Earlier this year, Mr. Chiluba began moves to amend the Zambian constitution so he could run again. But popular opposition forced him to abandon the plan. The Zambian elections are scheduled to take place later this year.