The United States and Britain are attempting to arrange talks here later this week between rival Rhodesian nationalist leaders in an effort to find a way of averting a black-versus-black civil war over the country's future.
Such talks would bring together Bishop Abel Muzorewa and the two guerrilla leaders who have rejected that accord, Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe. Muzorewa is one of three black leaders who signed an agrecmtnt with Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith last week for a transfer to black majority rule by the end of the year.
The negotiations would be chaired by British Foreign Secretary David Owen and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, who have been attempting for the past year to find an internationally acceptable formula for a transfer to majority fule in Rhodesia.
Both Mugebe and Nkomo, leader of the guerrilla Patriotic Front, have arrived in New York to address the U.N. Secretary Council today. Muzorewa flew into Washington yesterday for talks with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and Owen was scheduled to arrive for talks with Vance today.
Both Muzorewa and Owen are then expected to come to New York, setting up the possibility of the first direct negotiations between the rival Rhodesian parties since they met in Geneva under British auspices in 1976.
The big question, however, was whether the three Rhodesian nationalist leaders would agree to a face-to-face meeting. Nkomo yesterday rejected the idea of direct talks with Muzorewa.
"I don't discuss with Muzorewa - he represents Smith," Nkomo said.
U.S. and British sources remained hopeful, however, that he might reconsider.
"So far, everything is very open," Ambassador Young said.
Young noted, moreover, that yesterday's raid by Rhodesian troops against a guerrilla bse in Zambia demonstrated the need for a settlement that includes the Patriotic Front, which commands thousands of Rhodesian nationalist guerrillas.
"If there are still raids going on, obviously there is not much of a settlement," Young said.
While the U.N. Security Council agreed yesterday to invite Nkomo and Mugabe to address it today to present their case against the internal settlement, there were indications the council might not agree to hear Muzorewa.
British Ambassador Ivor Richards said Muzorewa has informally indicated that he would like to address the council Thursday.
But a number of African countries have registered strong opposition to allowing Muzorewa to take part in the current debate and no decision was made last night whether to permit him to speak.
It was also learned yesterday that Prime Minister Smith's government sent a cable to the Security Council last week asking that a "representative Rhodesian delegation" be allowed to present the case for the internal settlement.
U.N. sources said, however, that the Security Council intended to ignore the request since Rhodesia sought permission under Article 32 of the U.N. Charter, which applies to countries that a party to a dispute under consideration. The United Nations does not recognize the breakaway British colony as a country.
"I suspect the usual semantic games will be played and we will be ignored," Kenneth Towsey, director of the Rhodesia Information Office in Washington, said. "We've made these requests on three occasions in the past. We've never had any acknowledgement of our requests."