Morocco announced yesterday it will send troops to Zaire to form the nucleus of an African peacekeeping force that will try to stabilize conditions in strife-torn Shaba province.
Defense Department officials said U.S. Air Force transport planes would start flying the Moroccan contingent into Zaire - perhaps as early as today - and bringing out the French Legionnaires the African troops will replace.
While Morocco said its troops would join other African forces in the peacekeeping operation, no other African nations had signed on by last night.
France was reported to be urging Senegal Gabon, Togo, and the lvory Coast to send at least token units to Zarie to give a pan-African appearance to the venture.
"I think there probably will be other African countries who are going to participate," a State Department official said.
While House sources said they expected these African countries to ultimately contribute 500 to 1,000 troops to join a Maroccan contingent of up to 1,500 men.
They said the U.S. Air Force expected to make 30 flights airlifting the African troops into Zarie and bringing out the French. The United States, they added, had no plans "for the present" to provide weapons or equipment for the peacekeeping force.
Morocco's King Hassan said last week that he would not send Moroccan troops to Zaire - as he did in 1977 when he helped President Mobutu Sese Seko reconquer Shaba following a previous rebel invasion - unless other African countries took part this time.
If the French fail to persuade at least one other African country to help to join Morocco in sending troops to aid Mobutu, a new effort to organize a pan-African force is expected when Belgium, Britain, the United States, France and West Germany meet in Paris on Monday.
Morocco took pains in announcing its decision yesterday to emphasize that it was responding to appeal from the Organization of African Unity.
"As the unity and stability of the African continent remains one of the major concerns of King Hassan II, the presence in Zarie of a Moroccan contingent among the other African forces will thus constitute a concrete demonstration of the willingness of Morocco to fulfill loyally and fully its obligations to African solidarity," the announcement said.
The African force's mission will be to aid Zaire's army in reestablishing not just order but public confidence in mineral-rich Shaba, which was invaded last month by Katanganese rebels.
The lastest raid claimed the lives of at least 262 Zairian troops, black African civilians and Europeans, and the rebels controlled the mining town of Kolwezi for six days before French and Belgian paratroops drove them out.
Thousands of Europeans have since left Kolwezi. In view of this second attack Shaba in as many years, the Belgian and French workers who run the vital copper and cobalt mines are not likely to return unless a strong force remains in the province to back up the Zairian army. Mobutu, meanwhile, threatened to break diplomatic relations with Belgian yesterday in anger over reports emanating from exile groups in Brussels of another rebellion in Zaire more than 1,000 miles from Shaba.
The official Zaire news agency Azap denied that the towns of Hunia and Aba, in upper Zaire, had been attacked by rebels, or that rebels and government troops ahd clashed in northern Kasai province.
There was no independent way of confirming whether any such incidents had taken place.
Mobutu accused Belgian radio, which briadcast the reports, of giving facilities to "the enemies of Zarie," and Azap said Mobutu would probably withdraw his ambassador from Brussels.
At the United Nations British Prime Minister James Callaghan called on African states yesterday to reject outside interference on their armament, warned Africa to avoid let.
Callaghan addressing the U.N. General Assembly's special session on discontinent
Text Omitted From Source ting itself be misused by a new imperialism or become . . a new breeding ground for discord between East and West."
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance also discussed the situation in Africa yesterday during a one-hour meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Huang Hua in New York.
"Africa consumed a substantial portion of the discussions, 'a State Department spokesman later said.
Huang then left New York for Zarie, where he is scheduled to meet late today with Mobutu.