The United Stated dispatched 11 Air Force C141 transport aircraft to Morocco yesterday to begin airlifting Moroccan troops to Zaire's war-torn Shaba Province.
At the same time, U.S. officials disclosed that a five-nation western conference on Zaire has been moved up one day and is to open in Paris today in an effort to get other African nations to join Morocco.
Togo and Ivory Coast are reported close to joining the Shaba peacekeeping operation. Other possible participants are Senegal and Gabon.
In a related development, China's Foreign Minister Huang Hua flew to Zaire yesterday in what diplomatic sources interpreted as Peking's attempt to counter growing Soviet and Cuban influence in Africa.
Huang held a one-hour private meeting in New York Friday with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance that focused mainly on the African situation.
Huang is the first high ranking foreign official to visit Zaire since Angola-based Katangan rebels mounted their invasion of the mineral-rich Shaba six weeks ago.
Peking's show of support for the pro-Western government of President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire appeared to run parallel with Western efforts to shore up Mobutu's regime.
In announcing the beginning of U.S. logistical support for deployment of an all-African force in Zaire, the State Department said troops of other African countries would be transported to Zaire "as requests from interested African governments evolve."
The airlift of Moroccans was to get under way today and the U.S. planes will also transport French troops and equipment currently in Zaire back to France. The African peacekeeping force is to replace the French and Belgian troops that drove Katangan rebel invaders out of the Shaba mining center of Kolwezi last week.
Today's Paris meetings involves representatives of the United States, Britain, France, West Germany and Belgium. The American team is led by David Newsom, director of political affairs in the State Department.
The airlift operation, which began Friday Night, involves aircraft and personnel from four U.S. Air Force bases - McGuire in New Jersey, Norton in California, Charleston in South Carolina and McChord in Washington State.
A Defense Department spokesman said the aircraft landed yesterday at Agadir, Morocco; Corsica, and two Zairian airbases, at Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, to set up ground support facilities to be used in the operation.
Officials refused to specify the number of U.S. servicemen involved. But the State Department said no U.S. combat troops were involved and the U.S. aircraft would not fly into combat areas.
"The United States will play a supporting role as it did in the earlier transport of French and Belgian troops to Zaire," the State Department said. It added that the U.S. assistance is consistent with our view that African problems are best solved by Africans."
Huang, in his statement upon arrival in Zaire, attacked the Soviet Union, accusing it of seeking to control the strategic African nations as part of Moscow's policy of world domination. He also attacked the Soviet Union and Cuba for their alleged role in the invasion of Shaba Province.
The Chinese foreign minister made no mention of the American airlift operation or the Western effort to encourage the creation of a pan-African peacekeeping force.
Administration officials said the air-lift would take several days and that the all-African force wouldcomprise about 1,500 Moroccans and up to 1,000 troops from several other countries.