LUANDA, Angola — Government troops struggled Friday to recapture the rebel stronghold of Huambo, where thousands of people have been reported killed in three weeks of fighting.
Negotiators trying to stop the carnage met for a third day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and discussed a plan to pull government troops from around Huambo and rebels from around the capital, Luanda, and an oil center, Soyo.
At the United Nations, the Security Council unanimously renewed the mandate of U.N. peacekeepers in Angola but permitted the United Nations to cut down its presence if security continues to deteriorate. The vote was 15-0 to extend the U.N. operation until April 30.
The council insisted that Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali maintain enough staff in Angola or nearby areas to be ready to redeploy peacekeepers if fighting dies down, and it said a larger U.N. presence would be considered if the peace talks made progress.
The United Nations had authorized 714 military observers and civilians for Angola, but when fighting broke out again last October, it reduced its military and police monitors from 486 to 250 and sent home many civilians.
Angola is near disintegration, with intense fighting between the government and rebel UNITA forces having increased in the last month. Downed phone lines across most of the sparsely populated country make it difficult to determine which side has the upper hand.
But the seasoned UNITA rebels are believed to have effective control of more than 75% of the southwestern African nation.
Army Chief of Staff Joao de Matos said government troops controlled strategic access routes around Huambo and were shelling the city 329 miles southeast of Luanda, which they first attacked Jan. 9.
Huambo, Angola's second-largest city, has been headquarters to Jonas Savimbi's UNITA forces since they took up arms Oct. 31, renewing a 16-year civil war.