The Namibian nationalist group SWAPO has ordered its guerrillas in the territory to stop fighting, regroup and withdraw to Angola within 72 hours, SWAPO President Sam Nujoma said Saturday.
The move appeared to clear the way for a truce in a weeklong bush war that has raged in northern Namibia and threatened to wreck a U.N.-supervised plan to bring the territory to independence from South Africa.South Africa says at least 262 SWAPO guerrillas and 27 soldiers and police have been killed in the fighting that began April 1, the day the independence plan was due to be set in motion. An estimated 1,900 guerrillas have taken part in the incursion.
"We have taken a decision to order all PLAN (People's Liberation Army of Namibia) troops inside Namibia to stop fighting, regroup and report to the People's Republic of Angola within 72 hours," Nujoma said.
Nujoma said the SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization) guerrillas should be escorted with their arms out of Angola by peacekeeping forces of the U.N. Transition Assistance Group for Namibia (UNTAG).
He called on UNTAG to immediately designate assembly points in Namibia where the SWAPO fighters could group before leaving for Angola.
"We have come to this difficult decision because we are aware of the historic responsibility that we have to our people and to humanity as a whole," Nujoma said.
Earlier Saturday, officials from Cuba, Angola and South Africa, architects of the Namibian accords, flew to a remote Namibian safari lodge in a bid to halt the fighting.
Observing the meeting at the Mount Etjo safari lodge, 120 miles northwest of Windhoek, are the State Department's southern Africa expert Chester Crocker and Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Adamishin.
Crocker and Adamishin arrived after talks in Luanda Friday with Angolan, SWAPO and U.N. officials.
South Africa, citing its deal with Angola and Cuba and a complex U.N. blueprint for peace in the region, refuses to allow SWAPO forces into Namibia, saying they would prejudice elections to be held ahead of independence.
Police Saturday said the death toll in battles raging near the Angolan border was now 289, all but 27 of them SWAPO guerrillas.