Commonwealth Weighs Tougher Anti-Apartheid Sanctions

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

A PROPOSED ban on most ``nonstrategic'' imports from South Africa will spark intense debate when Commonwealth foreign ministers meet Monday in Canberra to plot joint action against apartheid. The plan includes a timetable for rapidly escalating sanctions, culminating in a total trade ban by 1994 unless Pretoria takes specified steps to negotiate apartheid's abolition.

The proposal was drafted by an independent study group created by the Commonwealth after a deadlock was reached on sanctions at its October 1987 summit meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's arguments that sanctions can't end apartheid are directly challenged in the hitherto secret study.

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Though the plan's phased approach represents a step away from their traditional calls for comprehensive, mandatory sanctions, Zimbabwe's Nathan Shamuyarira and other African officials on the eight-member Commonwealth Committee of Foreign Ministers on Southern Africa are expected to back the plan strongly .

The proposal urges joint action on sanctions with the US, Japan, the European Community, and other major South African trading partners.

It would impose escalating sanctions until Pretoria meets Commonwealth demands to free all prisoners; end the state of emergency; ``unban'' the ANC and other political parties; enter negotiations toward establishing a nonracial representative government; and take ``specific and meaningful action'' to end apartheid.

The first wave of proposed sanctions would:

End imports of all South African agricultural and manufactured products.

Impose mineral sanctions, covering coal, iron ore, base metals, and uranium.

End production of platinum coins and small bars, as a first step toward depressing the world price of a key South African precious metal export.

Begin a phaseout of trade credits for South Africa.

The next round of escalating sanctions would include:

Bans on sale to South Africa of computers, electronics, telecommunications equipment, and anything else with potential military applications.

A ban on new loans and investments in South Africa plus restrictions on rollovers of existing debts.

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