The Angolan ambassador to the United Nations said yesterday that his government is willing to "work closely" with the State Department to bring immediate relief to drought victims in Angola, including those in rebel-held areas.
The diplomat, Manuel Pedro Pacavira, said a State Department delegation will visit Luanda this weekend to discuss supply routes and also to "see if we can find a way to normalize relations."
Pacavira, however, said in a prepared news statement that his government was still concerned about the creation of "special corridors" into parts of southern Angola controlled by Jonas Savimbi's rebel army (UNITA).
The State Department has been pressing the Luanda regime for months to adopt procedures that would get food to the 150,000 people in "immediate risk" of starvation in UNITA-controlled areas adjacent to Namibia and Botswana.
The Angolan government has refused to approve shipments through Namibia and Botswana, asserting that the routes were traditionally used for military supplies to UNITA. Pacavira's aides said their government was seeking instead to have all food for the southern part of the country, including UNITA areas, shipped by truck from the Angolan port of Namibe.
Pacavira, at a midday news briefing, avoided direct discussion of routes. He said only that "we have to find quick ways to take immediate aid to our population, wherever they may be in the country."
Pacavira's visit to Washington was evidently timed to coincide with congressional consideration of a Bush administration proposal to give UNITA another year of covert military aid, reportedly about $80 million, through the Central Intelligence Agency. A House subcommittee began marking up the 1991 intelligence authorization bill, including the Angola aid, yesterday.
Pacavira told reporters that "there is no further reason for a war in Angola" and said his one-party government was committed to "leave behind a Marxist-Leninist character," embark on a multiparty system and attract more western investments. He said Savimbi will have to move fast toward a cease-fire if he wants to "fit in."
Rep. Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio), chairman of the House Select Committee on Hunger, said after meeting with Pacavira that he was "very encouraged." He said Pacavira expressed willingness to ask for U.N. assistance in working out food-delivery corridors.
The International Red Cross would be in charge of the shipments. Pacavira told reporters that the Red Cross was "the most competent and appropriate agency" for the job. He did not answer directly when asked why he was still worried about weapons coming in through Namibia and Botswana if the Red Cross was in charge.