Namibia settlement looks far away; US effort to get Cubans out of Angola fails
United Nations, N.Y.
United States diplomatic efforts aimed at the removal of 16,000 Cuban troops from Angola have collapsed.
One result of this development is that prospects for an early settlement of the Namibian war have dimmed. Angolan leaders have firmly rejected US proposals for a simultaneous, gradual withdrawal of South African forces from Namibia and of Cuban troops from Angola.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Frank Wisner returned empty-handed from the Angola capital on his mission to win approval for simultaneous pullouts.
A further damper on US efforts to work out a Namibia settlement is increasing uneasiness on the part of its ''contact group'' partners (Canada, Britain, West Germany, and France) to link a Cuban pullout with settlement of the Namibian conflict. Thus five years of work by the group appears to have come to a halt.
Angola's foreign minister, Paulo Jorge, told the Monitor in New York:
* The presence of Cuban troops in Angola is not subject to negotiation. Angola, he says, is a sovereign state and can call for foreign troops to be stationed on its territory just as West Germany has the right to have American troops on its soil. Furthermore, he says, Cuban troops have never crossed into a neighboring country and threaten no one.
* Angola will allow Cuban troops to go home as soon as it stops feeling threatened by South Africa. In 1976 and 1979, he says, after some Cuban troops had been sent home, South Africa launched savage raids into Angola.
Mr. Jorge says his country will feel secure enough to dispatch the Cubans home when Namibia achieves independence. At that time, he says Namibia, as a sovereign state, will function as a credible buffer between Angola and South Africa.
Jorge says that his government is convinced that the US really aims at ''taking Angola back'' on the global chessboard and replacing its Marxist-leaning leadership with a pro-Western regime.
He views the Reagan administration as trying to ''recapture'' Nicaragua, and perhaps Cuba, besides Angola. He says the US is using a carrot-and-stick approach with regard to his government: the carrot being a promise of diplomatic recognition and assistance, the stick being South African military incursions into Angola.
But Angolan leaders appear to sense a trap. If they swallow the American bait and ''become good boys,'' how do they know that, once the Cuban troops leave, they will not be toppled and replaced by ''more reliable'' pro-Western elements?
''We shall not place our heads inside the noose,'' Jorge says. ''In allowing Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the contact group's effort toward a negotiated settlement to come to completion, the US hopes to push us in a corner. It would then look as if all obstacles have been removed except for our refusal to send the Cuban troops.''
Some independent Western sources say this indeed seems to be the US strategy. An additional push came in President Reagan's recent letter to leaders of the ''front-line'' states (Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Angola) , urging them to pressure Angola.
But ''the veiled threats contained in the letter were counterproductive,'' Jorge says.