King Hassan II has declared that Morocco will send combat troops "to restore order" in Zaire's strife-torn Shaba Province only if other African countries join in forming an emergency military force for Zaire.
"I will not go there alone again," the Moroccan monarch said in a wide-ranging interview with Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post. He emphasized that he would refuse to send Moroccan units alone to Zaire as he did in 1977, when he helped President Mobutu Sese Seko reconquer Shaba.
"We are willing to send troops," the king said during a 90-minute discussion at the royal palace, "but we want friendly countries neighboring Zaire also to make at least a symbolic effort to show that it is not a problem that concerns only President Mobutu and me. It is a strategic problem for the entire region."
Mobutu, who is due to arrive here for discussions with Hassan tomorrow, indicated in Paris Thursday that he was counting on Morocco to send five units of combat troops immediately to protect the battered mining town of Kolwezi from a resurgence of guerrilla attacks that cost the lives of at least 260 whites and Africans earlier this month.
A failure by the Moroccans to come to the aid of Mobutu a second time could be crippling b low for his regime. The French, Belgian, American and African workers who ran Shaba's copper and cobalt mines, which are vital to the flagging Zaire economy, are certain to refuse to return to work as long as there is not a strong protective force in the field to support the Zaire army.
In another comment that sounded a new note of caution and concern about Western support for "moderate" goverments in Africa, the normally activists Hassan voiced sharp opposition to the idea of a permanent all-African - peacemaking force that would intervene in cases like the invasion of Shaba by Katangese rebels based in Angola.
"Moderate" African countries could form such a force, he said, but it would trigger a move by more radical states, with larger armies, "to form another inter-African force ...much more powerful than the moderates" and able to count on the Soviet bloc for more support than theWest would give its allies.
"The other side's allies would not show the shyness of the West and they would not fail to equip the force in such a way as to threaten the balance in African," Hassan said.
Seated in an easy chair at one end of an immense reception hall framed by Moorish arches and ornate mosaic friezes, the 48-year-old king spoke in relaxed tones throughout the disscussion. He wore an elegantly tailored French summer suit and sipped a cup of strong black coffee.
In the section of the interview devoted to the "second Shaba war," as this month's bloodshed in Kolwezi has been dubbed by the local news media, the king did not mask his chagrin over the diplomatic fallout of his 1977 decision to send 1200 Moroccan troops to help Mobutu's disintegrating army fight the Katangese. The Moroccans stayed in Shaba for two months in 1977.
"Many countries criticized our action at first. Later, they came and said a big thank you, but always privately, never in public. They didn't have the courage of their belief. Now, we want them to stand behind their belief, and to send help with us. Otherwise ... people will say Morocco is just a trouble maker, sending its troops thousands of miles away to bother people."
The king carefully refrained from discussing his views of the Carter administration's actions in Africa but diplomatic sources said that he was paricularly pained in 1977 by the open U.S. reluctance to endorse his rescue operation for Mobutu in its first stages.
Morocco's military power also appears to be stretched more thinly now than it was in 1977 by the countinuing war against the Algerian-backed Polisario guerrilla movement in the former Spanish Sahara colony which was annexed by Morocce and Mauritania in 1976. Morocco has 40,000 soldiers, about half of its army, committed to the war, which is having an increasingly visible impact on the already slumping Morroccan economy.
In response to a question, Hassan denied that Morocco had sent 100 Moroccan technicians and advisers to Zaire last week as a nucleus for the African peacekeeping force.
"We have sent only about 30 men, and they have gone to protect our embassy in Kinshasa. We learned that the first invaders into Kolwezi came looking especially for French and Moroccans, and we dicided that they could try something against out embassy in Kinshasa. The men we have sent aren't combat troops."
Morocco "will provide training transport and administrative help for Zaire, and combat troops also, but only if other African countries take the steps needed to organize a joint force," he said emphatically.
Citing intelligence reports that he had received, the king said this year's attack in Shaba appeared to be aimed at subvering Zaire through a major sabotage operation rather than through the king of organized guerrilla attack the Moroccans put down in 1977.
This year, instead of sweeping across the Angola-Zaire frontier, small groups of men infiltrated into the countryside around Kolwezi over a three-or four-month period, he said, and were led in the caputre of Kolwezi by a group of only 200 Katangese who came directly from Angola.