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Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 00:35 GMT
Angolan military meets Unita rebels
Jonas Savimbi's body
Savimbi: Killed in a gun battle with the army last month
The Angolan army says it has met members of the Unita rebel group to discuss how to bring an immediate end to the prolonged civil war.

The meeting - in the remote eastern province of Moxico - was the first since the government offered a ceasefire on Wednesday.

The government and Unita have not had high-level contacts for several years.

The talks come three weeks after Unita's founding leader, Jonas Savimbi, was killed in a gun battle by government forces.

Further talks planned

Government reports of the meeting said it had been attended by armed forces deputy chief General Geraldo Nunda and Unita field commander General Abreu Kamorteiro.

Unita rebel soldier
The government has said Unita must disarm before a firm peace accord
They met in the village of Cassamba for four hours and agreed to further talks in the nearby city of Luena on Monday.

A Unita spokesman in Portugal, Carlos Morgado, said he had seen television pictures of the event and could confirm that the Unita general was indeed present.

But he said he regarded the meeting as very strange, since Unita's own sources had indicated that General Kamorteiro had been captured more than a week ago.

Unita's representatives abroad have been out of contact with their forces in Angola since Jonas Savimbi's death, and the spokesman was unable to confirm what was discussed at the meeting.

A government statement said the sides were committed to carrying out the peace accords agreed in Lusaka in 1994.

It said they stressed their "firm determination to exert the necessary efforts leading to an immediate and definitive halt to hostilities".

On Thursday, Unita said it might well follow the government's halt to military action.

Angola has been embroiled in civil war for most of its history since independence in 1975.

An estimated 500,000 people have been killed, and millions more displaced from their homes.

The BBC's Justin Pearce
"Both sides say they want an end to hostilities"
See also:

13 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola faces life after Savimbi
25 Feb 02 | Africa
Angolan politics after Savimbi
17 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola rebels demand death probe
25 Feb 02 | Africa
Angola seeks quick end to war
25 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
25 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Timeline: Angola
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