A representative of the Angolan government, hoping to persuade Congress to curtail covert aid to Jonas Savimbi's rebel army, said yesterday the Luanda regime is willing to give "de facto" recognition to Savimbi's movement in return for a cease-fire.
Maj. Gen. Roberto Leal Monteiro said in an interview that "transitory" or "special status" would be extended to Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) "as a political movement" at the moment a cease-fire takes effect.
But he said the government could not give UNITA legal recognition as a political party because the Angola constitution now provides for a one-party system and cannot be changed overnight.
Monteiro, chief military adviser to Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, made the remarks as he began lobbying on Capitol Hill in connection with an expected vote in the House Intelligence Committee on a Bush administration request for continued CIA aid to UNITA.
Monteiro estimated that CIA military support to the UNITA rebels totals about $100 million a year and contended that they are getting much more from other sources, such as South Africa.
"We are acquiring the same kind of material," Monteiro said. "We know how much it costs."
Other sources put the CIA aid request for UNITA at closer to $65 million, higher than this year's initial authorization but slightly less than the final amount, which was reportedly boosted to $66.7 million by a reprogramming of other funds.
Monteiro said political change could come only after a cease-fire takes effect. He contended that UNITA, with support from the Bush administration, has staged "a dramatic increase" in offensive operations in north and northeastern Angola since June, coinciding with resumption of peace talks in Portugal between government and UNITA representatives.
The third round of talks broke down late last month on the question of recognition of UNITA. Talks are scheduled to resume Sept. 24.
Monteiro charged that UNITA military operations in the north, including attacks on power lines to Luanda and on oil fields in Soyo, amount to an offensive designed to give UNITA more muscle in the negotiations.
Jardo Muekalia, UNITA's representative in Washington, denied this and said rebel activity in the north was stepped up last February to counter the pressures of a government offensive against UNITA territory in the south. Since that offensive was defeated last May, he said, government forces were moved back north again "to regain control of areas" UNITA took over.
Muekalia denied there is fresh South African aid to the rebels. As for changing the Angolan constitution to provide for a multiparty system, he said the parliament in Luanda is already making some changes, such as making the army independent of the ruling MPLA party, and there are no legal bars to further change.
Monteiro said his government wants UNITA to participate in the process of changing the constitution once a cease-fire takes effect and is accordingly willing to guarantee "transitory status" to UNITA and other political parties taking part in the change to a multiparty system.
The campaign to curtail CIA covert aid, meanwhile, is likely to bubble up on the House floor when the intelligence authorization bill comes up for a vote. At least one member of the intelligence committee, Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), is reportedly planning to offer proposals in the committee this week to cut the assistance or to limit at least some of it to humanitarian aid. He could not be reached for comment.