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Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 17:31 GMT
Zambia, Angola mend relations

Refugees in UN plane Fighting caused a refugee crisis near the border


By Lara Pawson in Luanda

Angola and Zambia say their bilateral relations are back to normal, after Unita rebel activities along their common border put a strain on the neighbours' relationship.

The Angola-Zambia joint Defence and Security Commission held a two-day meeting in Luanda, with closed-door discussions led by the two ministers of defence, continuing late into Tuesday night.

Tension along the border, including alleged attacks by Unita rebels, formed a focal point of talks.

Although Zambia is committed to co-operating with the Angolan government, it refuses to take sides in the conflict.

Zambian Defence Minister, Chitalu Sampa, said the meeting had yielded "a great amount of success".

His Angolan counterpart, Kundi Paihama, said that future military action along the frontier, is, as a result of the talks, more certain.

Contrary to rumours in Luanda last week, Mr Sampa confirmed that the Angolans did not make any request to launch attacks against Unita from within Zambian territory.

Zambia neutral

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Sampa said Zambia wishes to maintain a position of neutrality in order to improve relations between Angola's warring parties.

He added that dialogue is the only solution to the conflict between Unita and the governing MPLA party.

But General Paihama earlier told reporters that the end of the war remains distant.

Publicly he remains adamant that war is the only way to create peace in Angola - a position shared by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

A military source in Luanda said that on this point, Angola's relations with Zambia remain fraught.

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See also:
30 Jan 00 |  Africa
UN airlifts food to Angolan refugees
09 Jan 00 |  Africa
Zambia orders Angolan border alert
07 Jan 00 |  Africa
Tensions on Angola-Zambia border

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