SANTA BARBARA — Despite pressure from Congress, President Reagan decided Thursday not to toughen U.S. sanctions against South Africa and instead extended a year-old executive order that his spokesman conceded has "not done what we intended for it to do."
The President ordered that a package of limited sanctions, which he imposed in September, 1985, be kept in place for another 12 months. The executive order restricts loans, computer sales and the export of nuclear technology to South Africa and bans the U.S. sale of South African gold Krugerrands.
The President's decision to extend but not expand the sanctions, which was announced as violence continued in black townships of South Africa and as the government there expanded its emergency police powers, sets up a likely confrontation with Congress.
The House and Senate have approved different measures imposing much stricter economic sanctions in an effort to pressure South Africa's white-minority government to make greater progress in ending apartheid.
A senior White House official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said that if legislation making its way toward final approval by the Congress reaches Reagan, "we're almost certain to veto it."
In Washington, Mark Helmke, a spokesman for Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the White House action does nothing to derail the congressional proposals. Rather, it promotes the likelihood that the Republican President will find himself in disagreement not only with the Democratic-led House, but also with the Republican-led Senate, he said.
In a message to Congress, Reagan said that he is continuing the sanctions he imposed by executive order on Sept. 9, 1985, which were themselves adopted to head off sterner measures then looming in Congress.
Reagan said the South African government's failure "to take adequate steps to eliminate apartheid," the imposition of a state of emergency on June 12 and "the persistence of widespread violence continue to endanger prospects for peaceful change in South Africa and threaten stability in the region as a whole."
Hints of Added Measures
But the President, who has made clear his opposition to "punitive" measures aimed at exerting greater pressure on the government of President Pieter W. Botha, held out the possibility that after consultations with Western allies, additional measures will be considered.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes, who announced Reagan's decision while the President neared the end of an annual late-summer vacation at his ranch northwest of Santa Barbara, said that Chester A. Crocker, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, had just returned from brief consultations with allies in London. Future action would take into account the results of these talks, Speakes said.
"This is the step for the time being," he said, although he added that after anticipated action by Commonwealth nations, final congressional approval of pending sanctions legislation, and the nomination of a new U.S. ambassador to South Africa--all expected in coming weeks--new steps could be unveiled by the United States.
The official said that although no announcement is ready, Edward J. Perkins, a career Foreign Service officer serving as ambassador to Liberia, remains "highly likely" to be nominated as the new U.S. ambassador to South Africa. If approved by the Senate, he would be the first black American ambassador there.
Speakes, meanwhile, told reporters that the Administration believes that the sanctions imposed a year ago "are those best designed to bring change" to South Africa without harming "the people we're trying to assist."
Changes Called Inadequate
However, he said the program so far "clearly has not done what we intended for it to do" and has not brought about enough change.
On Aug. 15, the Senate passed a measure that would ban imports of South African uranium, coal, iron, steel, textiles and agricultural products, prohibit new investments or loans to the Pretoria government, end U.S. landing rights for South African Airways and bar deposits in U.S. banks by the South African government or any government-owned companies. The margin of the vote, 84 to 14, would seem to ensure an easy override of a presidential veto.
Still tougher legislation requiring a virtual trade embargo on South Africa has been approved by the House. A conference committee of the two bodies must draft a compromise measure, unless the House accepts word-for-word the Senate measure in light of the current plan to adjourn Congress by Oct. 3.