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Powell Urges Angola to Use Oil Revenues to Rebuild - 2002-09-05

Secretary of State Colin Powell has told Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos that since his country's long civil war is over, the Luanda government should begin relying less on foreign aid and start using the billions it earns in oil revenue to help rebuild the country.

The death of longtime UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in February helped bring an end to nearly three decades of civil war. Angola's long running war was declared officially over last month. But an estimated four million people remain displaced in a country that is one of the most heavily mined on earth and where a generation of Angolans has known nothing but conflict. The United Nations is working to disarm former UNITA rebels as the country tries to recover from the ruins.

As he sat in on a special meeting of the U.N. body overseeing the disarmament, Secretary Powell told Angolans the United States stands ready to help a country that is going through fundamental change.

"Reconciliation will not be easy. But it must begin now," Mr. Powell said. " The people of Angola have suffered enough. This opportunity that is now before us must not be squandered."

A U.S. official says Secretary Powell told Angolan President Dos Santos his government will have to take the lead in this process, by using the country's vast oil wealth to help all Angolans. He said that long-term American assistance will be cut significantly. The message: only good government will attract the kind of foreign investment the country badly needs.

A country that is sub-Saharan Africa's second largest oil producer remains one of the world's poorest, despite earning $6 billion a year in oil revenue. Critics charge the Dos Santos government is siphoning off oil profits while a U.S. official says the Angolan government is unable to account for about a billion dollars in oil earnings. The Angolan government denies money is being lost or stolen.

Another issue is political reconciliation. The UNITA rebel group, now a political party, complains of government restrictions and harsh treatment of the estimated 80,000 former UNITA combatants, now in camps waiting to be reintegrated into society. Before they left Luanda for Gabon Thursday, U.S. officials said President Dos Santos acknowledged the need for UNITA to be allowed to fully participate in the future political life of the country.