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Talks Stall on Southern Africa Peace Plan, Namibia Freedom

The Washington Post

South African, Angolan and Cuban negotiators failed to reach agreement on a southern Africa peace plan and independence for Namibia that they had hoped to sign Saturday.

Shortly before flying back to Johannesburg with Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha, officials of the South African delegation insisted that the talks had not collapsed but were merely headed into another--unexpected--round to discuss unsettled issues such as the mechanism for verifying the withdrawal from Angola of an estimated 52,000 Cuban troops.

The South Africans have not been directly involved in the verification negotiations, but their acquiescence to whatever is decided is crucial to an overall agreement.

In Geneva on Nov. 15, the three countries agreed to a U.S.-brokered, 27-month timetable for the pullout of Cuban forces, linked to the beginning of a U.N.-supervised election process for the independence of Namibia, a sparsely populated territory on the southwest coast of Africa administered by South Africa.

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However, the parties put off until this round of talks the crucial question of how the Cuban withdrawal would be verified. Officials close to the talks characterized the differences surrounding that question as surmountable.

The South Africans conceded Saturday night that hopes of starting the process by March 15 are no longer realistic.

Expectations for a signing of a formal protocol Saturday had risen with the arrival here Friday of Botha and Defense Minister Magnus Malan, who have attended only one other of the 10 major negotiating sessions that began last May in London.

Under the withdrawal timetable agreed on in Geneva, half the Cuban troops would leave Angola during the first year after the start of a seven-month U.N.-supervised election process for Namibian independence.

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As envisioned by the Geneva agreement in tandem with the 1978 U.N. Resolution 435, which calls for a South African withdrawal from Namibia and independence for the territory, the accord would be monitored at three levels:

-- Deployment of a U.N. Transition Assistance Group to supervise the Namibian independence process.

-- Creation of monitoring commissions by Angola and Cuba to monitor and verify the Cuban troop pullout.

-- Establishment of a joint commission of appeals to which South Africa could take complaints of violations and obtain additional verification of Cuban withdrawals.

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