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Mandela lends Angola a hand

SOUTH AFRICA'S President Nelson Mandela stepped into the Angolan quagmire yesterday in an effort to restart the diplomatic drive to end Angola's civil war.

A summit to be held soon between traditional adversaries, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and the Zairean leader, Mobutu Sese Seko, a staunch supporter of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, was the only firm result of a day of meetings which Mr Mandela hosted in Pretoria.

The two presidents, who met for the first time since 1991, agreed to revive a joint security commission to prepare for the summit. They were joined in the talks by Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano and the special UN representative to Angola, Alioune Blondin Beye. 'After today's talks, there is no reason for pessimism,' Mr Mandela said after the meeting. Mr Mandela was at pains to play down the belief that South Africa was launching a new peace initiative or that he was attempting to replace Mr Beye.

'It must be understood that we are not starting an initiative which is independent,' Mr Mandela added.

South African officials said Mr Mandela was sensitive to his country's notorious role in Angola, albeit under the whites, of supporting Mr Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita).

Angolan officials said they were not optimistic Mr Mandela could do much to end the fighting, which has claimed an estimated 500,000 lives since Mr Savimbi rejected the results of the country's first elections in September 1992 and resumed the war.

Fighting has intensified in Angola in the past six weeks, and the UN World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and dozens of foreign aid agencies were forced to suspend their relief efforts for over a million people because Mr Savimbi's Unita movement refused to give security clearance for flights to areas held or surrounded by the rebels.

Mr Savimbi has been invited to meet Mr Mandela later this month, a Pretoria spokesman said. 'Without Savimbi's involvement, peace cannot be considered,' Mr Mandela said.