Holbrooke Wants Harder Sanctions on Angola's UNITA

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Lara Pawson

LUANDA (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke called Friday for tougher sanctions against the Angolan rebel movement UNITA which has been mired in a civil war with government forces for decades.

''The sanctions regime should be strengthened and tightened and pursued vigorously,'' Holbrooke told journalists after meeting Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos in Luanda, where he is on the second leg of a multi-nation tour of Africa.

Holbrooke said the United States would call a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss Angola next month, when it takes over the presidency of the body.

The United Nations is also seeking to tighten sanctions against Jonas Savimbi's UNITA, which sells diamonds to buy arms. South African diamond giant De Beers recently announced it would no longer buy from Angola for fear of aiding Savimbi.

UNITA and the formerly Marxist MPLA government have waged an on-off war since Angola won independence from Portugal in 1975. The fighting has killed nearly a million people, displaced two million more and condemned the nation to poverty.

The United Nations was forced to pull out of Angola in March last year following the collapse of a 1994 peace deal which was supposed to put an end to more than two decades of fighting.

In October, however, the Angolan government grudgingly authorized a new, scaled-down U.N. operation in the southwest African country, with a human rights mandate only.

Holbrooke said he also discussed the internal economic and political situation in the oil- and diamond-rich nation during his hour-long meeting with dos Santos.

''We expressed our support for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. We did not discuss military cooperation,'' he said.

Holbrooke also said the United States, which during the Cold War supported UNITA against the then Soviet-backed Luanda government, should do more to help Angola identify and remove the landmines that litter the countryside.

The ambassador said while the United States had important economic interests in Angola, particularly in its rich offshore oil fields, its major goal was to assist in peacemaking. ''This is not a policy driven by commercial or economic factors, it is driven by political and humanitarian factors,'' he said.

Holbrooke Wants To Revitalise Lusaka Peace Accord

Holbrooke said he had also discussed with dos Santos the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a multi-sided cease-fire is on the brink of collapse.

Angola is backing Congo President Laurent Kabila as are Namibia and Zimbabwe, while Rwanda and Uganda support rebels who have been fighting to oust Kabila since last year.

Congo said Friday that rebels, backed by fighters from Angola's UNITA, Rwanda and Uganda, had reopened the civil war front in an economically strategic region west of Kinshasa.

Holbrooke emphasized U.S. support for a peace accord signed in Lusaka in July by the six governments involved in the war and finally endorsed by the rebels in August.

''Our intention on the remainder of this trip (is) to revitalize and reinvigorate that process,'' he said.

Holbrooke is due to move on to Namibia later Friday after a visit to a camp for war refugees, and will then visit South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Rwanda, Uganda, Congo and Tunisia.

He is accompanied by U.S. Democratic Senator Russ Feingold and special envoy to the Great Lakes, Howard Wolpe.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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