The Angolan ceasefire aimed at bringing peace to the country after nearly three decades of civil war has won wide international praise.

The United States and several other countries Thursday welcomed the agreement signed earlier in the day between the Angolan government and the UNITA rebel movement.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the United States looks forward to the full completion of the agreement and subsequent national reconciliation steps. He said Washington is ready to assist in those efforts.

Britain, France, Russia, Sweden and the country's former colonial ruler, Portugal, also praised the cease-fire. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the cease-fire "a historic step forward."

The military commanders of the Angolan government and UNITA signed the agreement Thursday in Luanda, the capital, in front of top Angolan officials and international representatives. UNITA military commander General Abreu Kamorteiro pledged his soldiers will abide by the agreement and hand in their weapons.

UNITA had been fighting the Angolan government on and off since the country became independent in 1975.

The ceasefire agreement calls for the demobilization of UNITA's 50,000 fighters. Earlier this week, the Angolan Parliament approved an amnesty for rebel fighters. It also covers anyone imprisoned as a deserter from the Angolan army during the war.

Peace talks began last month, shortly after UNITA's longtime leader, Jonas Savimbi, was killed in a clash with government forces. It was the fourth cease-fire signed by the warring factions to try to end a conflict that now has claimed at least 500,000 lives.

The top U.N. adviser on Angola, Undersecretary-General Ibrahim Gambari, challenged all Angolans to make sure peace is given a chance.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.