September 2, 2011 / 2:29 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 1-Angola's Dos Santos picks Vicente as successor

(Adds background, no comment from MPLA, Sonangol)

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has selected Manuel Vicente, head of the country’s national oil company Sonangol, to be his successor, weekly newspaper Novo Jornal said on Friday.

Dos Santos, who has ruled Angola for 32 years, will step down as president either after general elections due next year or a year after the vote is held, Novo Jornal said, citing sources in the ruling MPLA party.

The newspaper said Vicente, 55, had already indicated earlier this year that he would be stepping down as chief executive of Sonangol.

The MPLA and Sonangol were not immediately available for comment.

A trained engineer, Vicente joined Sonangol in 1991 after a four-year stint at the oil ministry’s technical department and rose to the company’s top post in 1999. He has been a member of the MPLA’s political bureau since late 2009.

Dos Santos, 69, also has an oil background, with a degree in petroleum engineering obtained in Moscow.

A quiet man with a firm grip on affairs of state, Dos Santos assumed the presidency of Angola in 1979, four years into a civil war that began when the country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.

The 2012 general election is only the second since the end of the civil war that pitted the Russia- and Cuba-backed MPLA against UNITA, supported by the United States and apartheid South Africa.

The MPLA, which won the war in 2002 and 82 percent of the vote in the 2008 general election, is likely to win the 2012 election, especially as UNITA, now the main opposition party, is embroiled in an internal dispute.

The MPLA’s 2008 victory left rivals in tatters, letting dos Santos change the constitution and boost his powers.

The new charter enables the Angolan president to remain in power until 2022 although there has been consistent speculation he will retire before then. (Reporting by Marius Bosch and Shrikesh Laxmidas in Lisbon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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