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South Africa attempts damage control on East Timor

Reuters - August 5, 1997 (abridged)

Cape Town – South Africa, trying to unravel twin diplomatic blunders in its East Timor peace initiative, on Tuesday acknowledged a "miscommunication" over an announced visit by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Presidential spokesman Parks Mankahlana told Reuters a misunderstanding had led him and other government officials to announce that Annan would meet President Nelson Mandela in Pretoria on Friday to discuss a joint initiative for peace in Indonesian-controlled East Timor.

"There was a miscommunication with the United Nations and I must say the miscommunication appears to have been largely on our side," he told Reuters.

South African officials also acknowledged on Tuesday that the Portuguese government had lodged a formal protest against the expulsion last week of its ambassador in Pretoria, Vasco Valente.

Although there was no formal response from the South African government early on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry officials said they were aware that South African Ambassador Kingsley Makubela had been summoned to the Portuguese Foreign Office.

The Portuguese embassy in Pretoria confirmed on Monday that Valente last week was given 48 hours to leave the country.