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Hopes for Angola peace increase


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi could give Angola its greatest hope for peace in a decade, former South African foreign minister Pik Botha has said.

Botha said Savimbis death, if confirmed, was regrettable, but it could give Angolans their first serious chance for peace since Savimbi rejected a role in a power-sharing government in 1992.

"I greatly respected him as a leader, a strategist of high calibre," Botha told Reuters.

It is a great pity that he did not use the opportunity in 1992 to start governing Angola jointly with President (Jose Eduardo) dos Santos.

"That would have avoided a large number of losses of peoples' lives and the destruction of Angola to the detriment of all of us in Africa."

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News of Savimbi's death was greeted with celebrations in the poorer outlying slums of Luanda.

"He just wanted war, war, war," one man said. "I think peace will come now because Savimbi was one of the principal figures of the rebellion."

United Nations representative in Angola, Mussagi Jeichande, said he regretted Savimbi's killing but added, "We have to see this, probably, as the beginning of the end of Angola's war."

Former Portuguese Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, who leads the centre-right Social Democratic Party and oversaw a 1991 peace deal between the Angolan government and UNITA, told Portugals TSF radio Savimbi's reported death "opens a very important page" for transforming Angola.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres said the international community must do more to further peace in Angola a former Portugese colony.

"The important thing is that the international community is more active to make sure that the peace process goes on to reach true democracy based on the participation of all political forces," Guterres told Reuters.

Asked if Savimbi's death could help revive the 1994 Lusaka peace deal, which collapsed in 1998, he added: "The events that took place will be considered by us all to be an opportunity to be even more active in supporting peace and democracy in Angola."

Portuguese ambassador to Angola, Fernando Neves, said Savimbi "chose his destiny."

"The international community gave him ample opportunity to choose a negotiated solution," Neves told reporters.



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