WASHINGTON -- The leader of the Angolan rebel movement, Jonas Savimbi, declared yesterday that government recognition of his organization is essential to achieve peace in Angola, but he indicated that such recognition could take place simultaneously with the signing of a cease-fire agreement.
UNITA, as the rebel movement is known, had insisted on its recognition by the government of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos as a pre-condition for reaching a peaceful settlement to the 15-year-old conflict in the oil-rich African nation.
But Mr. Savimbi, speaking at the National Press Club, said the pace of the negotiations, which have lately been joined by the Soviet Union and the United States, convinced him that peace was nearer and that recognition of UNITA as a political party could happen at the same time the two sides sign a cease-fire accord.
"UNITA believes three elements are critical to achieving a lasting peace in Angola," Mr. Savimbi said of his peace plan -- recognition of UNITA as a political entity, setting a date for multiparty elections and securing an effective internationally monitored cease-fire.
He insisted that the cease-fire be monitored primarily by an African peacekeeping force, with the United States, the Soviet Union and other countries such as Portugal sending only civilian observers. But he also indicated that details were still to be worked out.
The rebel leader said a cease-fire could be attained by the end of the year, paving the way for multiparty elections. He added that elections could be held within three months of a cease-fire agreement but that they would have to take place after the departure of the last Cuban soldiers from Angola, scheduled for July.
However, some maintain that a three-month period would not be enough time to disarm the warring forces and prepare a peaceful climate in which parties could campaign freely. It is also believed that large parts of the country have been mined by both sides and that more time will be necessary to deactivate the mines.