Cuba and Angola announced Friday their approval of a U.S.-mediated peace plan for southwestern Africa, paving the way for an end to fighting in Angola after more than a decade and for independence in Namibia, Africa's last colony.

In a brief announcement in Havana, the Cuban government declared its assent to a plan that will lead to the withdrawal of 50,000 Cuban troops that have bolstered Marxist-ruled Angola in fighting against UNITA rebels and South African forces.The Angolan decision was announced in a brief report by the official news agency Angop, leaving only South Africa still to approve a provisional agreement reached in Geneva on November 15 after six months of talks.

Namibia, which is also known as South West Africa and has a long border with Angola, is ruled by South Africa in defiance of the United Nations.

South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha said Pretoria would announce its decision next week. "This is a weighty matter with important implications for the entire southern Africa region," he said.

A peace accord is due to be signed soon in Brazzaville, Congo - scene of some of the negotiations - but no date has yet been set for the ceremony.

American mediator Chester Crocker drank champagne with negotiators from Havana, Luanda and Pretoria in Geneva last Tuesday to toast the draft accord.

Southwestern Africa would be the latest world troublespot to enjoy peace if hopes raised by the draft accord are fulfilled, joining Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Cambodia.

Cuba first dispatched an expeditionary force to Marxist-ruled Angola in 1975, soon after the African country won its independence from Portugal.

Agreeing a timetable for their withdrawal was a main sticking point in negotiations. Neither the Angolans nor the Cubans gave details of the terms of the Geneva agreement, but diplomatic sources in Havana said Havana had accepted a 27-month period.

Namibia could become the last African colony to gain independence next year, Martti Ahtisaari, U.N. special representative for Namibia, said earlier this week.

The United States had proposed repatriation of 36,000 Cubans during the first year following the independence of Namibia and of the remaining 14,000 over the second year.