Britain Moves To Ease Strains In South Africa

Pretoria eases resistance to calls for international monitoring of security forces, political violence

A BRITISH-LED international effort to persuade the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pretoria government to resume negotiations is taking shape behind the scenes, according to Western diplomats.

A key element involves limited international monitoring of the security forces and political violence, the diplomats say.

President Frederik de Klerk softened government resistance to an international role Wednesday, announcing that international experts would be appointed to assess the police investigation into the massacre of at least 39 black South Africans last week that led to the ANC halting talks to end white rule.

He also announced that Judge Richard Goldstone, who heads an independent commission of inquiry into the violence, would soon name an international expert to join him. A British diplomat said the expert was a well-known British academic.

"De Klerk has opened the door to an international role," says a Western diplomat. "We need to push to see how far it will open."

Mr. De Klerk said he was prepared to endorse an observer role for international monitors but opposed any plan that would give authority to such a group. "Advice, yes," he told a news conference in Pretoria Wednesday. "We will accept any constructive recommendation. Fact-finding missions, yes."

A call for international monitors tops a list of ANC conditions for further talks with government. The party said that the details of a monitoring group should be negotiated between the parties; diplomats say they would help broker an arrangement.

An ANC official told the Monitor that such a group should consist of about 100 observers with headquarters in Johannesburg and regional offices throughout the country.

"It must be able to respond sharply and make quick recommendations on procedures," said ANC official Kader Asmal. "And it must have independent transport and communications."

Mr. Asmal said monitors should be attached to the police and accompany them on operations. "Only a monitoring group will be able to get to the bottom of rogue elements in the security forces," he said. "A monitoring group would both internationalize the South African issue and provide a level of scrutiny over the police which no South African agency could provide."

The ANC has stopped short of asking for a peacekeeping force. "That would be an operation on an altogether different scale," Asmal said. "One would be talking about 2,000 to 4,000 soldiers with problems of cost, size, strategy, and power."

Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party has rejected the concept of an international monitoring group but it was likely to endorse the limited moves made by De Klerk.

The International Commission of Jurists, which recently sent a fact-finding mission to South Africa, has recommended a group of around 500 with their own transport and communication.

Despite Western support for a limited international role, both Washington and London have been at pains to apply equal pressure to Pretoria and the ANC to return to the negotiating table. Some former international allies of the ANC are questioning its insistence on an international role.

"The stage has not been reached where one can say that the situation in South Africa has become a threat to international peace and security in the sense that Yugoslavia is," says Joseph Garba of Nigeria, who formerly headed the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid. "You don't need outsiders in South Africa. It is the parties themselves who must sit down and find a negotiated solution. They must understand that they are going to have to share power."Britain has moved fast to limit the damag e of the latest stand-off between Pretoria and the ANC. Prime Minister John Major has written to ANC President Nelson Mandela assuring him that Britain, which takes over as president of the European Community July 1, would play a leadership role in finding a resolution to the impasse. Britain has also offered to restructure the South African police and train them in community policing techniques.

An EC fact-finding tour, which was due to have taken place this month under Portugal's presidency, would now be led by the British. Emeka Ayaoku, secretary-general of the 50-nation Commonwealth, also is expected to visit South Africa soon.

UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who left this week for the summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Dakar, Senegal, will meet Prime Minister Major and British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd in London next week.

Mr. Mandela is expected to meet South African Foreign Minister Roelof (Pik) Botha in Dakar to discuss the latest impasse with OAU mediaton. Both Pretoria and the ANC have established close links with incoming OAU President Abdou Diouf of Senegal. African diplomats say the political deadlock in South Africa is likely to dominate the OAU summit.

United States Ambassador William Swing was to meet Mandela yesterday and President Bush was expected to send letters to both Mandela and De Klerk expressing concern over the deadlock and urging them to return to the table, diplomats said. Mandela and the British ambassador, Sir Anthony Reeve, met Monday.

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