Key Commonwealth negotiator pessimistic on S. Africa's future

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

A key member of a Commonwealth negotiating team warns pessimistically that, if a peaceful solution to South Africa's problems can not be found ``maybe even millions could be killed.'' Malcolm Fraser, a former Australian prime minister, is co-chairman of the so-called Eminent Persons Group, established by the (British) Commonwealth. The group has the goal of bringing opposing groups in South Africa toward an agreed stance on the future of the nation, which is violently separated by the policy of forced racial segregation known as apartheid.

Following his recent departure from South Africa, Mr. Fraser briefly returned home to brief Australian Prime Minister Robert Hawke on the group's progress. The group had left South Africa hurriedly, following Pretoria's attacks on May 19 on alleged facilities of the resistance group the African National Congress in neighboring Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

Fraser has now gone to London for further meetings on forthcoming strategy.

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During his visit here, Fraser's pessimism was apparent. Indeed, following a confidential briefing with his predecessor, Prime Minister Hawke was also notably bleak in assessing South Africa's immediate future.

In comments on Australian television, Fraser said South Africa could slide into civil war. But, he noted, ``It is not going to be one major army clashing with another because the African National Congress has not got an army of that kind.''

And, ``if there can't be a negotiated settlement, there will be a war that will start off as a guerilla war and more and more people will get hurt,'' he predicted. ``Hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions, could be killed and that sort of thing could go on for maybe 10 years,'' said Fraser.

According to Fraser, events of the past two years have shown that attempts by South Africa to restore ``normality'' through force, won't work. And, cross-border raids, he argued, only damage the willingness of black leaders to negotiate for peace.

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