Botha joins peace trail in Angola

INTERNATIONAL efforts to maintain peace in Angola have accelerated with the arrival of the South African Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, but no one seemed to know how to resolve the deepening confrontation between the government and Jonas Savimbi's opposition Unita movement.

Mr Botha's arrival yesterday, barely 24 hours after an eruption of gunfire in the capital, Luanda, left at least four people dead, added to the diplomatic contacts being established with both sides following the country's first legislative and presidential elections on 29 September.

On Sunday, a special four-person delegation sent by the United Nations security council came to bolster the position of the special UN envoy to Angola, Margaret Anstee, but their specific mission was unclear. Senior Unita officials have suggested that the elections be annulled and that a transitional government be established until new polls, administered by the UN, could be held. Diplomats who have met Mr dos Santos in the past week said the government would not accept the Unita proposal.

The national electoral council has repeatedly balked at announcing the final election results in deference to warnings by Unita that to do so before investigations into charges of fraud were completed would provoke a resumption of the former Portuguese colony's 16-year civil war.

Mr Botha was expected to follow Ms Anstee and the UN delegation's trail by travelling today to the central highlands city of Huambo where Mr Savimbi has remained for the past week, and where a Unita political commission meeting was under way.

Some Western diplomats hope Mr Botha could persuade Mr Savimbi to accept the results of the elections, in which, according to latest returns, he is losing to President Dos Santos by 39 per cent to 50.8 per cent. South Africa was Unita's biggest backer during the civil war. Mr Botha seemed upbeat as he arrived in Luanda. 'I am coming to look for common ground, and I think there is common ground,' he said.