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US focus on aid to Nicaraguan, Angolan rebels

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On two widely separated diplomatic fronts, the Reagan administration appears to be headed for an escalation of support for anticommunist forces. It indicates that it plans to resume covert aid to the guerrillas fighting the Marxist government in Angola.

It is laying the groundwork for asking Congress to provide more humanitarian and possibly military aid for the rebels in Nicaragua.

Both moves would be in keeping with President Reagan's broad objective to aid ``freedom fighters'' around the world and countering Soviet expansionism. But, in each case, diplomatic critics of United States policy question whether such moves would achieve the desired end.

The purpose of providing secret aid to the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in Angola would be to pressure the Marxist regime in Luanda to move foward on a plan for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. Another goal might be to prompt a withdrawal of South African troops from Namibia and hasten eventual Namibian independence.

A senior administration official said this week that recent diplomatic meetings with Angola were ``positive in tone,'' and further talks are planned in the near future. He refused to comment on the possibility of covert aid but repeated the administration position that moves in Congress to provide overt assistance to UNITA would not be helpful.

Overt aid is viewed as complicating a regional settlement. It would also be damaging because it would have to be funneled through South Africa, which poses problems for Washington as it tries to distance itself from Pretoria's apartheid policy.

Some diplomatic observers suggest that even covert aid, which US Secretary of State George P. Shultz initially opposed but now appears ready to back, would only escalate the confrontation in Angola.


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