Angola gains US recognition

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton yesterday recognised the government of Angola, reversing 15 years of US support for its opponents. The change in US policy comes after the government won elections six months ago while rebel forces, formerly backed by the US, returned to the battlefield.

Mr Clinton made the announcement at the start of a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, saying: 'This decision reflects the high priority our administration places on democracy.'

The President said he had tried to use the threat of recognition as 'leverage' to end the civil war between the government of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and the Unita rebels led by Jonas Savimbi. He had decided to recognise the government when Unita refused to accept the peace plan.

The US and South Africa supported Unita with weapons and money during the late 1970s and the 1980s in order to weaken or overthrow the Soviet-backed government in Luanda. This support was ended when a peace agreement was signed in May, 1991 to end the civil war that had started soon after the withdrawal of the Portuguese in 1975.

In elections held six months ago, President dos Santos won most votes in a UN-monitored election that Mr Savimbi denounced as rigged. Talks for another agreement were convened six weeks ago in Abidjan, in Ivory Coast, by the US, Russia, Portugal and the UN to end the renewed fighting but Unita refused to accept a new peace plan.

Announcing the change of policy Mr Clinton said: 'It is my hope that Unita will accept a negotiated settlement and it will be part of this government.' He promised to work with the government in Luanda 'to achieve a lasting peace settlement and a vibrant democracy there'.