LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia's new government apologised to Angola on Wednesday for backing the losing party in the country's 27-year civil war as it tries to repair ties with its oil-rich neighbour.
The move by Zambia's recently elected President Michael Sata is the latest in a series of major policy shifts by the country, which ranks as Africa's largest copper producer.
"As I am talking, our first president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, is in Angola. I have sent him as my envoy to go and personally apologise to the president," Sata told Angola's new ambassador Balbina Malheiros Dias Da Silva.
Angola had accused Zambia of backing the UNITA movement, which lost the war to MPLA party of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, but Lusaka had previously denied the charge.
Zambia relies on semi-refined oil imports from the Middle East but has been studying plans to import crude oil from Angola and set up a new oil refinery locally. Sata also said Zambia planned more links with Angola by road and railway.
Sata's victory in the September election led to a quick and peaceful transfer of power -- a rare event for Africa. A critic of Chinese investment in the region, Sata swept to power on the back of voters who had seen their economy grow but felt the riches from its mines had not made their way to the people.
He promised to try to make China more accountable for the actions of its firms operating in Zambia.
Sata has also been seeking an apology from another neighbour, Malawi, for the way he was treated during a visit about four years ago.
President Bingu wa Mutharika's government arrested Sata when the then opposition politician travelled to Malawi to visit a former president. Sata was bundled into a car and driven several hundred kilometres before he was dumped at the border and told he could never come back.