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Mozambique Foreign Minister Succeeds Machel, Vows to Follow Same Policies

November 04, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Foreign Minister Joaquim Chissano was chosen Monday as Mozambique's new president, succeeding the late Samora M. Machel, who was killed in a plane crash two weeks ago.

Chissano, 47, who is viewed as a moderate within the leadership of Frelimo, the country's ruling party, immediately pledged in a radio address to follow Machel's policies--including a flexible, pragmatic socialism in developing the impoverished country and nonalignment in foreign affairs.

Chissano also said the government will press the battle against right-wing guerrillas, who are now on the offensive.

'Continue the War'

"We will continue with the war in order to finish the war," he said, ruling out a truce or early negotiations with the rebels.

The prolonged civil war is the principal task of the entire people, Chissano said, promising new government efforts to defeat the guerrillas and "restore peace and tranquility for all citizens."

Chissano, foreign minister since Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal in 1975, was the expected choice of the 130-member Central Committee of Frelimo.

His election as the party leader, announced after a daylong meeting in Maputo, makes him the country's president and armed forces commander, under Mozambique's constitution. He was described as the central committee's unanimous choice.

In Lisbon, the guerrillas' Mozambique National Resistance declared after Chissano's election that it will go on fighting, stepping up the offensive in the center of the country. It predicted that the government will fall within weeks.

Chissano was also confronted Monday by fresh South African accusations that Mozambique provides bases for African National Congress guerrillas to mount cross-border operations in their fight against the white minority-led Pretoria government.

After the death of a 20-year-old mounted soldier Sunday in a land mine explosion near the border with Mozambique, the South African defense headquarters in Pretoria, said, "There is no doubt at this stage that the mines were planted by ANC terrorists operating from Mozambique." The statement noted that 14 land mines have been detonated in the area this year.

Warnings by Pretoria

Pretoria has repeatedly warned in recent weeks that if Mozambique allows its territory to be used by the guerrillas, it will open itself to South African counterattacks and other reprisals.

After a land mine explosion wounded six South African soldiers last month, Pretoria halted recruitment of Mozambican miners and farm workers, depriving the country of about a third of its foreign exchange earnings. Later, Gen. Magnus Malan, the South African defense minister, warned of possible military action if there are further incidents.

In Maputo, a Mozambique official said South Africa may intend to use the incident as a pretext for a military strike against his country and even an attempt to oust the government and install the Mozambique National Resistance, which South Africa allegedly helps arm and train.

Repeats Denials

The official repeated his government's denials that the guerrillas have resumed their cross-border operations from Mozambique.

Another crisis facing Chissano is reconstruction of the country's economy, which in terms of industrial and agricultural production has shrunk by half in the last five years because of the civil war, a lengthy drought and government mismanagement.

In his 30-minute radio address, Chissano sought to give Mozambique's 14 million people a strong sense of continuity and to reassure them after the shock of Machel's death.

He emphasized the importance of agriculture in the country's economic development, said foreign investment will be welcomed to speed industrialization and added that Mozambique's foreign policy, including the opening to the West, will not be changed.

He also renewed Machel's recent pledge to fight corruption and the abuse of power.

Machel, who was killed with 33 others when his plane crashed Oct. 19 just inside South Africa, led the country to independence and was its only president. For many Mozambicans, the death of their charismatic president brought great fears for the country's future.

Led Guerrillas

A student leader and then a guerrilla commander in the 10-year war for independence, Chissano was a founding member of the Frelimo party and one of Machel's closest political associates for more than 20 years. In 1974, he served as prime minister of a transition government that preceded independence.

Chissano, who studied in Portugal and France as a youth, is widely credited by political observers and diplomats in Maputo with helping persuade Machel to move away from the orthodox Marxism that the party tried to apply in its first eight years in power to a more flexible approach.

In foreign policy, Chissano is viewed as the architect of Mozambique's recent opening to the West after the virtual alliance with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe that followed independence. American companies are now drilling for oil and prospecting for minerals in Mozambique, British officers are helping train its soldiers, and Portuguese have been welcomed back as investors and technical advisers.

In the party hierarchy, however, Chissano stood third--behind Machel and Marcelino dos Santos, a more orthodox Marxist who was probably handicapped by his age, his Portuguese ancestry and the fact that his white wife was born in South Africa.

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