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Angola: Security Council condemns fighting, urges release of abducted children

Angola: Security Council condemns fighting, urges release of abducted children

Members of the United Nations Security Council today "strongly condemned" recent attacks by the Angolan rebel army UNITA, and urged the release of all civilians - both children and adults - currently being held by the armed group.

The Security Council particularly condemned a UNITA attack that occurred today and another that took place in Caxito on 5 May, and called for the release of the children abducted in the Caxito fighting, Ambassador James Cunningham of the United States, the Council's current President, told the press at UN Headquarters.

Council members welcomed the reaffirmation by the Government of Angola of its willingness to engage in dialogue with UNITA and urged the parties to become involved in the search for a peaceful settlement. They also expressed their intent to maintain sanctions on UNITA, and emphasized the importance of the Lusaka Protocol, the Council President said.

On the humanitarian front, the Council expressed concern at the "declining" situation and urged for unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance to all internally displaced people and civilians in need, especially children.

The Council President's press statement followed consultations during which members heard from Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa, Ibrahim Gambari, on his recent mission to Angola.

Speaking to the press after his briefing to the Council, Mr. Gambari said civil society in Angola - led by the Catholic church and local non-governmental organizations - has been putting tremendous pressure on all sides to bring the war to an end. Noting the effort by President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos on 2 May, when he challenged UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi "to come out and say when this war will end and how he intends to enter the political process," Mr. Gambari said the "the answer Savimbi apparently gave was the attack on Caxito and the abduction of the children."

"I believe the Security Council will send a clear message that Savimbi needs to give an unambiguous clear response to this call to end the fighting and embrace dialogue," Mr. Gambari added. "If you judge by the pressure from the civil society, the changes are much better than ever before, but we're still waiting to hear from Mr. Savimbi."