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Angolan rebels on 'Freedom' stamps

By TAMARA HENRY

WASHINGTON -- Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi has found a way to raise his flag around the world. He has commissioned millionaire stamp collector Marc Rousso to mint and market 'Freedom' stamps.

'This set of stamps may be the most important event in the entire history of stamp collecting because it is the first stamp to be issued by' the rebels who have been fighting Angola's Marxist government, Rousso said in an interview.

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An opening sale date of Feb. 28 has been scheduled for the first $15 set of four stamps. Each bears a dramatic representation of the struggle of Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, which usually is known by its Portuguese acronym UNITA.

One stamp shows Savimbi in his uniform with his quotation: 'There are no weapons in the world with the capacity to forever stop the will of the people.'

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Another stamp shows a black hand and white hand shaking in friendship with the UNITA flag in the background.

The third stamp shows the face of a tiger. The last stamp shows Savimbi's profile with the UNITA flag in the background.

'As never before, stamps are becoming the currency by which freedom fighters raise their flags,' said Rousso.

Rousso, a native Parisian, added, 'France also was occupied. I appreciate how important the fight for freedom is. Living in the United States has instilled in me the value of fighting for that freedom.'

Rousso said 3,000 subscriptions for the stamps were sold last week as the news spread 'by word of mouth.'

'I have no idea how many sets I will sell the first month. But I think I will double or triple the sale each month. By the time everybody in Europe and all the stamp collectors know about this stamp, there will be more and more demand,' he said.

Rousso, 35, opened the International Stamp Exchange Corp. of Miami Beach, Fla., to rejuvenate the hobby of stamp collecting for millions of fans who annually invest several hundred dollars in their collections.

Savimbi contacted Rousso after Rousso successfully sold the Afghan Resistance Stamp last month. That stamp, one of three canceled stamps of a 1982 mint date known to have circulated outside of Afghanistan's borders, was traded by Rousso for goods with a value of $2.5 million.

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Rousso said he created a separate Resistance Stamp Agency Inc. in Palm Beach, Fla., as the exclusive agency for distribution of the UNITA freedom stamps.

The first set of four stamps was designed and printed by the Pompano Beach, Fla., printer, George McDermott, who has been a stamp collector for 25 years.

The plates for each set will be destroyed following each subscription period 'to protect the value of the stamp,' Rousso said, adding the face value of the set equals $15 -- the real value at the black market -- or $50 at the fixed exchange rate set by Angola's government.

A limited number of sets of the Angolan stamps will serve as postage for the operating postal services of UNITA. The letters will be mailed from UNITA headquarters in Jamba to UNITA correspondents around the world.

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