President Reagan, in his interview with Soviet journalists, said his administration had decided not to provide arms to noncommunist rebels fighting the Marxist regime in Angola, but administration officials said yesterday that the issue of whether to assist the rebels has still not been resolved.
In his interview with the Soviet journalists, released Monday, Reagan said, "In the southern part of Africa, Angola is torn by civil war, yet we have determined not to supply arms to either side and to urge a peaceful settlement."
Asked about this statement, White House spokesman Michael Guest said the president was referring to general U.S. policy to date toward the Angolan conflict and that "no decision has been made" on various proposals to begin providing U.S. aid to the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) led by Jonas Savimbi.
"It is still a question under discussion within the administration," he said.
The administration is reported to be favoring a bill sponsored by Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, calling for $27 million in humanitarian aid to UNITA. A Pepper aide said last week unnamed administration officials had given his office "private assurances" of the president's backing for the bill and that it was only a matter of timing when he would make this public.
Both the Central Intelligence Agency and Pentagon have been pushing for approval of the start of a big covert military aid program to UNITA.