After years of arming opposite sides in Angola's civil war, the United States and the Soviet Union may send peacekeeping forces to that country once a cease-fire is reached, the leader of Angola's rebel forces says.

But a State Department official said Wednesday he sees virtually no possibility that American forces will be sent to Angola on such a mission.Jonas Savimbi, head of the U.S.-backed UNITA rebel group, said Tuesday after a meeting with President Bush that Bush sees the idea as a "good thing."

There was no immediate White House comment on Savimbi's statement. Last week, Soviet and American representatives were on hand in Lisbon for the fourth round of peace talks between envoys of the leftist Angolan government and UNITA.

A State Department official who was unaware of the discussion at the White House said Tuesday there was no mention at the Lisbon talks of Soviet and American forces monitoring an Angolan cease-fire.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was a discussion of U.S. and Soviet participation at the diplomatic level in overseeing implementation of a cease-fire and a political settlement.

Another official confirmed Wednesday that U.S. participation almost certainly would be limited to a diplomatic as opposed to military role.

Meeting with reporters outside the White House, Savimbi said peace talks with the Angolan government are going well.

Savimbi told Bush the Angolan government has been flexible because of U.S. assistance to UNITA. The president replied that UNITA can count on U.S. aid until a cease-fire is in place and there is a date certain for free and fair elections, according to informed sources who asked not to be identified.