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Angola: Annan meets President, hails prospects for lasting peace

Angola: Annan meets President, hails prospects for lasting peace

Annan and President dos Santos of Angola
The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today met with the President of Angola in the country's capital, and hailed prospects for lasting peace in the war-torn southern African nation.

Speaking to reporters following his meeting with José Eduardo dos Santos, the Secretary-General said he had congratulated the President and the people of Angola for their achievement. At the same time, he cautioned that much remained to be done to help the country, including through humanitarian aid, recovery, reconstruction, demining, and the improvement of health services and education.

Noting that his first visit as a Secretary-General had been to Angola, he said he was happy to be back at a time when peace is on the horizon. He promised that the UN would "work effectively with the Government on all fronts."

Visiting camps for internally displaced Angolans later in the day, the Secretary-General and his wife, Nane Annan, were greeted by large crowds of people singing and dancing. While in the camps, Mr. and Mrs. Annan also vaccinated two babies against polio.

Addressing a crowd of several hundred Angolans, the Secretary-General noted that their country had one of the highest numbers of internally displaced people in the world, and paid special tribute to Angolan women, who, he said, "had been the backbone of society when the men have gone to war, leaving them behind with the children."

Also today, the Secretary-General met with the diplomatic corps in Luanda and with local leaders, including church officials. Attending the opening ceremony for the joint commission set up to identify pending tasks to fulfil the commitments under the Lusaka Protocol - the country's milestone peace accord - he said the event was "powerful testimony to the progress Angola has made."

Pledging the UN's assistance to help Angola consolidate the gains achieved so far, he called for the complete demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants into civilian life, and the return and resettlement of displaced people. "Only then can peace truly take hold, and your people put the years of brutal war behind them once and for all," he told those assembled.

Arriving in Angola on Sunday, the Secretary-General was received at the airport by Foreign Minister João Miranda. At a subsequent reception in his honour given by UN staff in the country, Mr. Annan requested a minute of silence in memory of the late former Special Representative to Angola, Maitre Alioune Blondin Beye, who was killed in a plane crash near Abidjan airport on 26 June 1998 while travelling for meetings aimed at moving the Angolan peace process forward.

"It is really moving to be back here," the Secretary-General told the staff present. "We are all happy and excited with the prospects for lasting and genuine peace in Angola." At the same time, he warned that the present opportunity "is only a beginning - we have a long way to go, first and foremost the Angolans, but also the international partners."