In articles on Angola in Sunday's editions, typographical errors led to two inaccuracies. The League of Nations gave South Africa control over Namibia (then known as South-West Africa) after World War I, not World War II. Also, Cuban troops in Angola are reported not to engage guerrilla forces in offensive operations, rather than defensive operations as printed.
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has pledged to join with the Reagan administration in working for independence for the neighboring territory of Namibia and withdrawal of about 25,000 Cuban troops from Angola as part of a regional peace settlement.
Acknowledging in an interview here that the Cuban military presence has given a propaganda advantage to rival forces fighting his Marxist-led government, dos Santos said Angola is showing "flexibility" and a sincere desire to achieve a regional settlement. He cited secret proposals that Luanda recently gave to American envoys, who are due back here soon for further talks.
But the Angolan leader also warned that a continuing refusal by South Africa to complete a withdrawal of its troops from southern Angola under the terms of an accord brokered by the United States last spring threatens a larger effort. That plan would in effect match a South African withdrawal from Namibia with an end to the nine-year Cuban military presence in Angola.
"The problems of the South African occupation of Angola and of independence for Namibia must be solved before the withdrawal of Cuban troops can be agreed to between Cuba and Angola as two sovereign countries," dos Santos said. "The United States should exert its influence on South Africa to resolve this in a way that will facilitate the discussion of the other problems in the region."
The 90-minute interview, conducted here Wednesday, was the first dos Santos has given to an American journalist since succeeding the late Agostinho Neto as president five years ago. It was clearly designed to convey a sense of a diplomatic opening toward the United States, which has refused to establish formal relations with Angola since it became independent from Portugal in 1975.
His remarks, translated from Portuguese by a government interpreter, implicitly portrayed the revolutionary government here as embarking on a new phase of diplomatic pragmatism that would parallel an existing openness to foreign investment and increased trade with the West.
Production by American and French oil companies here will provide Angola with more than 80 percent of its $2 billion foreign exchange earnings this year.
The discussion with dos Santos and other officials in Luanda also partially lifted a curtain of obscurity that has hung over the "package deal" of an end to insurgencies and withdrawal of foreign troops that the Reagan administration has been actively pursuing for the past three years.
Other points made by the 42-year-old dos Santos, who was trained as a petroleum engineer in the Soviet Union, included:
Angola is prepared to live "in an atmosphere of tolerance" with South Africa once Namibia is independent. Apartheid and white-minority rule should be condemned by all nations, he said, but he suggested that they would be treated as internal problems when "South Africa, which is very far away from Angola," returns to its borders.
Dos Santos called on the Reagan administration to establish diplomatic relations with Angola now to quicken its peace effort in southern Africa, for which he offered qualified praise. A settlement would also open new opportunities for investment and trade with Americans, he said, pointing specifically to the agricultural potential of the areas of southern Angola now under South Africa's military shadow.
He offered amnesty to followers of UNITA guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi who give up the struggle against the Luanda government, but ruled out any reconciliation with "Savimbi and his close collaborators," who he said had "betrayed Angola and betrayed Africa" by cooperating with South Africa. He suggested the UNITA leaders would face certain death if they attempted to return to Luanda.
Seated in a spacious reception room of the seaside villa about 10 miles outside Luanda that he uses as an office and home, dos Santos spoke with a quiet confidence that appeared to bear out diplomatic assessments that he has recently consolidated his control within the central committee of the MPLA, the Marxist-Leninist party that has ruled Angola since 1975. (See accompanying story.)
The interview was part of an unusual week-long journey in Angola, apparently authorized by dos Santos, that included interviews with other senior officials rarely exposed to the press and visits to the northern enclave of Cabinda and the southern zone still under South African occupation. Those visits will be described in subsequent articles.
Dos Santos and the chief of staff of the Angolan armed forces, Col. Antonio Franca Ndalu, who was interviewed separately, stressed that the Cubans had originally been invited and had remained in Angola to counter "external threats to Angola's security" from South Africa and at one time from neighboring Zaire.
Ndalu said that the Cuban force was deployed in a static defense role along the rail line between the port of Namibe and Lubango, and was not involved in fighting against UNITA.
Unofficial but reliable sources here confirmed that the Cubans apparently do not engage in defensive operations against UNITA now.
The Cuban presence was cited by both the Carter and Reagan administrations in refusing to establish diplomatic relations with Luanda. But Reagan's assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Chester Crocker, and his deputy, Frank G. Wisner, quietly opened diplomatic discussions three years ago with the MPLA and the South Africans about lowering tensions in the region and finding a formula to end the Cuban presence.
The most significant progress in those efforts appeared to grow out of a conference the United States helped arrange last February in Lusaka, Zambia, when South Africa and Angola agreed to a disengagement pact that had important implications both for Angola and for the insurgency conducted in Namibia by the SWAPO guerrilla force.
The Lusaka accord also had the immediate effect of significantly increasing American credibility with the Angolans and encouraging the pragmatists grouped with dos Santos in the MPLA government to make a serious effort at working with the Americans, according to diplomatic observers.
South Africa agreed to pull out of Angola an invasion force that had penetrated 120 miles north of the Namibian frontier in heavy fighting last December and January. The force, which Angolans estimated as numbering as many as 20,000 men when support units inside Namibia were counted, was to withdraw in five stages by March 30. In return, Angola promised that the evacuated territory would be kept clear of any foreign forces -- Cubans and SWAPO guerrillas included. A joint commission was established to police the arrangement.
The withdrawal proceeded smoothly until the South Africans reached the penultimate withdrawal line about 25 miles north of the border near the village of Ngiva, and suddenly stopped. Angolan units arrived along the same line on May 2, but there has been no further movement.
"We have made proposals to South Africa, both directly and indirectly through the United States of America, to try to break this impasse" dos Santos said.
He declined to go into detail about the discussions, but he said that South African and American insistence on linking Cuban withdrawal to finishing the withdrawal from Angola and implementing the U.N. plan for Namibian independence "is one of the main problems now."
South Africa has said it is not responsible for delays in carrying out the disengagement plan and is waiting for new proposals from Angola.
Dos Santos reiterated conditions that Angola and Cuba have previously said must be fulfilled before the expeditionary force is withdrawn. He said that the Cubans would not go as long as "Angola's security is threatened" by occupation of Angolan territory by the South Africans, by continued South African logistical help and training for Savimbi's guerrillas, and by the absence of an internationally accepted settlement in Namibia that included South African military withdrawal.
"We accept the principle of the withdrawal of the Cuban forces from Angola," dos Santos said. "But it cannot happen as long as South African forces still occupy Angola, and Namibia is used as a base of attack against Angola."
He gave an explicit commitment to an arrangement that would have the Cuban troops begin their withdrawal in stages as the South Africans start to implement their withdrawal from Namibia, as outlined in the U.N. plan. He noted that "the Cuban presence was reduced considerably in 1976" and at other moments when South Africa reduced its military pressure on Angola, and had been increased again at moments of South African attacks.
Evidently concerned about the success of Savimbi's efficient publicity campaigns in the United States and at home, dos Santos accused the UNITA leader of "misleading peasants here with appeals to tribal factors, and by distorting the presence of the internationalist Cuban comrades who are here.
"The South Africans and Savimbi say to the peasants that the Cuban and other foreigners working here now equal the Portuguese colonialists that we fought against. There is absolutely no comparison."
He also voiced concern about publicity given by the Voice of America to recent declarations in Washington by UNITA representatives and by Holden Roberto, leader of the anticommunist FNLA resistance group that collapsed in the late 1970s. Dos Santos said those declarations suggest that "the links have not been cut" between American intelligence agents and the Angolan rebels.
"We don't understand how the United States can negotiate with us, and then allow elements of UNITA and the collapsed FNLA to publicize their presence in Washington. It does not favor the success of the work we are making now jointly at a diplomatic level to solve the Namibian problem," dos Santos said.