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Angola Parliament Approves Amnesty for UNITA - 2002-04-02

Angola's parliament has unanimously approved an amnesty for UNITA rebels.

The blanket amnesty covers all civilians and soldiers, both Angolan and foreign, who committed what were called "crimes against the security of the Angolan state." It also covers anyone imprisoned as a deserter from the Angolan army during the war.

On Saturday, the UNITA rebels signed a preliminary ceasefire agreement. Delegations from the United Nations, the United States, Russia and Portugal attended the signing ceremony.

The two sides are scheduled to sign a formal ceasefire accord during a ceremony on April fourth in the capital, Luanda.

The ceasefire came more than a month after the death of longtime UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, who was killed in a clash with government forces in Angola's eastern Moxico province. UNITA's new leader, Paulo Lukamba Gato, had endorsed the ceasefire talks.

UNITA has fought the government almost non-stop since Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975. The last of two failed peace agreements collapsed in 1998, setting off a full-scale resumption of hostilities. The war has claimed at least 500-thousand lives.

(Portuguese to Africa, AFP-SAPA, files )