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Angolan Peace Effort Praised by US - 2002-07-23

The United States has praised progress being made in peace efforts in Angola, even though a Saturday deadline was missed for the full de-mobilization of UNITA rebels. The senior U.S. diplomat for African Affairs, Walter Kansteiner, is visiting Angola for talks on the peace process this week.

The process of demobilizing UNITA fighters and integrating thousands of the former rebels into the Angolan security forces is lagging days behind schedule. But the State Department is hailing the degree of progress made, and promising U.S. diplomatic support to efforts to bring a final conclusion to nearly three decades of civil conflict in Angola.

Spokesman Richard Boucher says U.S. officials are not discouraged by the pace of implementation of the Angolan cease-fire accord reached in April. "I think we would point out that they have made a lot of progress. There's been excellent cooperation so far. There is something like 80,000 former UNITA combatants and adherents who've reported to the cantonments around the country, in many cases joined by their family members," said Mr. Bocher. "So that's progress that we applaud and we hope to see that advanced and will continue to work on seeing that continue."

Angolan officials say an unknown number of former guerillas are still at large in the oil-rich country despite the Saturday de-mobilization deadline raising concern of a setback in efforts to implement the cease-fire.

After years of fighting and inconclusive diplomatic efforts, Angola has seen rapid progress toward reconciliation since the death in action of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in February.

Mr. Boucher said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner will discuss implementation efforts with senior Angolan officials in talks in Luanda continuing Tuesday, and that his agenda also includes efforts to improve the poor living conditions in the UNITA cantonment camps.

Mr. Kansteiner is to go on to Nigeria for talks later in the week.