Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda ended three days of intensive talks with British and guerrilla leaders today amid optimistic signs that a settlement of the Rhodesian conflict was within reach. o
At a press conference, Kaunda refused to provide any details of his discussions with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, except to say he believed an agreement was near. It was learned that he had gained concessions from the British and injected new ideas that could lead to a breakthrough in the stalled nine-week-old talks, if no new complications arise.
It was understood that Britain accepted part of a suggestion by Kaunda that could enhance chances for an early cease-fire in the seven-year-old guerrilla war and thus ease the need for a large number of troops to monitor the military situation.
Kaunda reportedly urged that britain, which would administer the country during a short transition period, feed and pay guerrilla forces that cease firing as well as the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian military, whose benefits would continue. He maintained that the money for this equal treatment could come from the current Zimbabwe-Rhodesian government expenditure of about $1.5 million a day to prosecute the war.
Britain agreed to feed the guerrillas and would consider paying them, sources said. Kaunda's theory is that if the guerrillas can get paid in return for an end to the fighting, thousands [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
If successful, this would mean that will quickly do so. [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] informal British proposals for a force of about 1,000 Commonwealth troops to monitor the cease-fire could be adequate.
In addition, Britain reportedly agreed that the two-month election campaign period would not begin until a cease-fire was effective, even if bringing the cease-fire into force took longer than the two weeks proposed by British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington.
This could stretch the total transition period to about three months, which Kaunda advised the Patriotic Front to accept. The Front is seeking six months and Britain two.
The length of the transition and the size and nature of the monitoring force are two key outstanding issues.
Zambia harbors Joshua Nkomo's wing of the Patriotic Front and thus can pressure the guerrillas, espcially since Zambia has come under intense military and economic attack from Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
One possible roadblock to a peaceful solution is a report of divisions between Nkomo and the more militant wing of the Front led by Robert Mugabe. It was noted that Mugabe flew to Addis Ababa today for meetings with the pro-Soviet Ethiopian government and thus did not attend a final session of talks between Kaunda and the Front.
In a move that could help achieve a settlement, it was reported the United States is willing to assist in moving hundreds of thousands of refugees back into zimbabwe-Rhodesia if a settlement is reached.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe-Rhodesian Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa showed his impatience over the pace of the talks. He announced that several members of his delegation would return to Salisbury in the next few days. Three, including former prime minister Ian Smith, were flying out tonight.
Carrington warned the conference today that a decision on the transitional arrangement must be reached "in the near future." The tone of his remarks, however, seemed much more, conciliatory than earlier this week when the Front complained about his conduct of the conference.