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UN Prepares Peacekeeping Effort to Protect Fragile Angolan Truce

By Julia Preston
The Washington Post

The Security Council this week will begin to deploy a force of 7,100 U.N. peacekeepers to shepherd a fledgling cease-fire agreement in Angola, U.S. officials and U.N. diplomats said Monday.

Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali called for the force to help the onetime Marxist government and guerrillas led by Jonas Savimbi to wind down a 34-year-old conflict that is a remnant of the Cold War. Security Council delegates say the government wore down Savimbi's rebels conclusively last year, and a viable peace can be built on a cease-fire accord the two sides signed in Lusaka, Zambia, last November.

Angola is the first new peacekeeping operation the council has considered since Republicans took control of Congress in Washington and pledged to cut payments for U.N. peacekeeping and sharply reduce the U.N. role in U.S. foreign policy.

But Angola is one U.N. project that is regarded favorably by key congressional Republicans. During the 1980s, Savimbi's anti-communist rebels received more than $250 million in covert U.S. aid, with strong Republican backing. Savimbi has joined the government in asking for a robust U.N. force to support the cease-fire accords.

The Clinton administration has "strong bipartisan support" to endorse the mission when the Security Council votes on Wednesday, a U.S. official said. Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., the new chairman of the House International Relations Committee, joined in signing a Dec. 7, 1994, letter to President Clinton calling for "a substantial U.N. peacekeeping force at an early date" and describing the Lusaka accords as "the last, best hope for peace in Angola."

Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has indicated he will not oppose the Angola mission, administration officials said, despite his dislike for the United Nations, which he considers a wasteful and ineffective organization.

But a committee spokesman said Helms remains skeptical. "There are a lot of reasons to question the commitment and trustworthiness of the Angolan government," Marc Thiessen said.