Although European Community leaders are likely to stop short of a complete economic boycott of South Africa in a vote today, they are expected to endorse a package of modest economic restrictions. The leaders of the 12 European Community (EC) countries are also likely to approve a series of ``positive measures'' to help the strife-torn country's black majority.
After a meeting of EC foreign ministers here yesterday, officials said that ``serious differences continue to exist'' among EC members over the best way to respond to the South African crisis. The two EC countries with by far the broadest links with South Africa -- Britain and West Germany -- are opposed to cutting all economic and trade ties with that country, arguing that to do so would be ineffective and possibly counterproductive, the officials said.
``We want negotiations and dialogue,'' a British government source said. ``That is the only path ahead to dismantle apartheid, and any measures must be targeted to that end.''
Friedhelm Ost, spokesman for the West German Foreign Ministry, told reporters that his government would only be prepared to support measures which non-EC, industrialized nations -- particularly the United States and Japan -- could back. Recently, President Reagan flatly rejected the use of economic sanctions against South Africa.
Other EC countries, especially Denmark and the Irish Republic, favor tough and wide-ranging economic sanctions, while the Netherlands and Belgium would agree to implement limited economic restrictions -- such as a ban on imports of South African fruits and vegetables -- provided that other EC countries joined in.
A decision on what action the community might collectively take in the wake of the latest social unrest in South Africa is expected to be made by EC heads of government at their regular two-day meeting here, which ends today.
Among the measures being considered are a ban on new investments in South Africa and on imports from that country of uranium, coal, and farm produce. There is also said to be broad agreement on some ``positive measures'' for South Africa's blacks, including financial support for job-training programs and academic scholarships, as well as legal aid for those suffering as a result of the state of emergency declared June 12.
Officials said it is also likely that British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe will be charged with heading an EC peace mission to South Africa some time after the British government takes over the rotating EC presidency next Tuesday.
Last September, the EC countries approved a joint ban on all military cooperation with South Africa; all bilateral, cultural, and scientific events; all oil exports to Pretoria; and all collaboration in the nuclear sector. Since then, individual EC members have imposed further restrictions. Denmark, for instance, recently banned all trade with Pretoria, and the British government has halted all new government-backed loans since October.