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US Welcomes Implementation of Angolan Peace Process - 2002-11-23

The United States has welcomed this week's final implementation of U.N.-brokered peace accords in Angola, saying it marks "the end of an era" in the war-torn African country. The State Department pledged long-term U.S. support for Angola's reconstruction and political reconciliation.

What is supposed to be the final event in Angola's peace process came Thursday in Luanda with the formal dissolution of a joint commission of the Angolan army and former rebels that had been charged with overseeing a cease-fire under the 1994 Lusaka peace accord.

The event was marked by ceremonies in the Angolan parliament, and welcomed here by State Department spokesman Philip Reeker.

He said the United States congratulates the government of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the former rebels of UNITA, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola and the United Nations for the "cooperative spirit" that has characterized the final implementation of the peace plan.

"The United States applauds the strong political will of the government and UNITA in bringing the process to a mutually-agreeable conclusion, and we call upon UNITA to assume its responsibility as viable political party to work closely with the government of Angola on national reconciliation," Mr. Reeker said.

The Angolan civil war erupted in 1975 after the country's independence from Portugal and became a Cold War battleground, with Moscow and Cuba supporting the then-Marxist government and the United States and South Africa backing UNITA led by Jonas Savimbi.

Though the U.N.-brokered Lusaka Protocol was reached in 1994, there was no lasting cease-fire until after Mr. Savimbi was killed in fighting early this year.

Despite the completion of the peace process, the country still has formidable problems, with a wrecked economy, millions of displaced people, and minefields rendering huge areas, including rich farmland, unusable.

Spokesman Reeker told reporters the United States and the international community stand ready to support humanitarian, resettlement and reconstruction aid to Angola "over the long term". He urged the Luanda government, which has sizeable oil revenues, to increase its efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of its people.

Mr. Reeker said ensuring continued peace is the post-war government's greatest challenge and said the United States will work closely with it in efforts to re-integrate former combatants into society, organize free and credible multi-party elections, and implement free-market reforms.