Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos appealed to Congress this week to stop the CIA's flow of arms to Angolan rebels and emphasized his government's willingness to stop buying weapons from the Soviet Union or any other party.
Dos Santos made the request in a closed-circuit television conference from Luanda with several House members Thursday, the day after the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted in closed session to continue arms shipments in fiscal 1991 to the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), reportedly at a reduced level of about $48 million.
Speaking to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, dos Santos stressed his government's endorsement of the so-called "triple-zero" plan under which the Luanda regime would purchase no additional military supplies from the Soviet Union or other third parties if UNITA would "cease all resupply activities in bellicose hardware" and sign a cease-fire agreement.
"UNITA must compromise just as we must compromise," dos Santos said. He said he was puzzled by the failure of UNITA and the Bush administration to accept the "triple-zero" plan.
Peace talks in Portugal between government and UNITA representatives broke off late last month over the question of recognition of UNITA as a political party. They are scheduled to resume Sept. 24.
Dos Santos said he felt the holding of the talks "clearly demonstrates implicit recognition by my government of the political component of UNITA."
He said Luanda is committed to changing its constitution, once a cease-fire is in place, to allow a multiparty system and nationwide elections.
Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) urged dos Santos to agree to a timetable for elections, with UNITA entitled to participate.
But dos Santos said conditions in the war-torn country were too chaotic to be able to set a reliable date. He said that no census has been taken for years and that registration of voters also would pose difficulties.
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), a UNITA supporter who attended the conference, said a date must be set as part of any cease-fire agreement. But he told a reporter he was encouraged by the session.
"My gut reaction is that dos Santos is looking for a way to resolve the conflict and that UNITA is, too," Burton said.
The teleconference was arranged by the law firm of Washington, Perito and Dubuc, which represents the Angolan government here.
The debate over Central Intelligence Agency aid for UNITA, which totaled more than $60 million this year, is expected to come up on the House floor in voting on the 1991 intelligence authorization bill. The intelligence committee approved additional arms shipments Wednesday, along with some $12 million in aid for the non-communist resistance in Cambodia and more than $300 million for rebel groups in Afghanistan, but only after strenuous lobbying by the Bush administration.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III called members from Moscow to urge support for all three covert aid programs, sources said, and a delegation of high-ranking State Department officials who deal with those issues was dispatched to Capitol Hill to help assure a favorable vote.
The Senate has voted against covert aid for the Cambodian resistance and has called for a cut of about $100 million in support for the Afghan rebels.