I agree with Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Calif.) that our goal in Angola ought to be peace and an end to the terrible suffering of the Angolan people {"Let's Back Peace in Angola," op-ed, July 19}. However, I am convinced that a peace settlement can only come about if we continue to back the rebel group UNITA until the Angolan government agrees to a reasonable settlement.

It is no coincidence that the Angolan government's supporters are vocal at the present. They are afraid that President Bush, supported by the bi-partisan House and Senate Intelligence Committees, will increase aid to the UNITA freedom fighters. For this reason, certain Democrats in Congress are trying to convince the American people that UNITA is blocking peace efforts. Unfortunately, the propaganda campaign against UNITA leaves out many relevant facts.

U.S. aid to UNITA is estimated at $50 million per year. This contrasts with the sum of more than $1 billion per year in military aid that the Angolan government receives from the U.S.S.R., despite perestroika. While it is true that Cuban troops are in the process of leaving Angola, 25,000 of them are still there, and they should never have been sent in the first place. The Cuban invasion scuttled free-election plans and installed the MPLA in power illegally. It is a testimony to UNITA that it controls one-third of Angola and operates all over the country.

Just eight months ago, the Marxist government launched a vicious offensive at Savimbi's stronghold of Mavinga with the aim of wiping out UNITA. Given this recent attack, it is difficult to take seriously Rep. Dellums' claim that the Angolan government wants to "foster regional peace" and "march down the road to democracy."

UNITA has proposed an unconditional cease-fire, and peace talks leading up to free and fair elections and national reconciliation. That offer is still on the table.

The State Department estimates that more than 750,000 people in southern Angola are in danger of starvation. Yet Angola refuses to allow the Red Cross to ship food into UNITA areas through Botswana and Namibia. Jonas Savimbi, UNITA's leader, has proposed "corridors of peace" to allow food to reach the starving thousands on both sides of the conflict. Luanda has rejected Savimbi's offer, claiming that weapons might be smuggled in with the food shipments -- a ludicrous suggestion and a brazen insult to the Red Cross.

Having rid themselves of Portuguese colonialism, the people of Angola have been forced to endure 15 years of Marxist tyranny. All over the world, people are rejecting Communism in all its forms. The Angolan people have the right to make their choice as well. DAN BURTON U.S. Representative (R-Ind.) Washington