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Administration Gutted S. Africa Sanctions, Study Says

June 21, 1988|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration has created such gaping loopholes in its two-year-old South African sanctions law that the statute may have little impact, according to a report released Monday by a private advocacy group.

The Administration interpreted sections of the 1986 law to allow infusions of money to South Africa, subverting the law's intent, and it ignored Congress' direction to enlist allies in imposing a broad trade blockade on the apartheid regime, concluded the study by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The report was timed to capitalize on the opening of hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee later this week on new and stronger sanctions legislation.

Vote on Bill Expected

A bill expected to come to a vote soon in the full House would place a virtual ban on U.S. trade and investment in South Africa within a year. Sponsors of the bill say the United States needs to escalate economic pressure on Pretoria to force abandonment of its system of official racism.

The measure is given a good chance to pass the House, but it is likely to have a tougher time in the Senate, where it lacks the support of moderate Republicans who gave the current sanctions crucial backing two years ago. The Administration opposes the bill.

Monday's report from the Washington-based liberal advocacy group said the Administration has allowed "large quantities" of South African uranium to continue to be imported into the United States despite the ban; allowed Ford Motor Co. to pour $61 million into a South African company that was taking over its operations there, and interpreted a ban on exports of petroleum products to allow re-export from third countries.

Passed Over Reagan Veto

The 1986 sanctions, passed over President Reagan's veto, banned importation of South African textiles, agricultural products, iron and steel, coal and uranium. It also prohibited new U.S. investment and new loans to the South African government.

Concerns that the sanctions would not be fully implemented by an Administration hostile to their intent have "in part" been realized, the report said.

"Most troubling has been the Administration's refusal to seek a coordinated strategy with other industrialized countries" to impose multilateral sanctions, the lawyers' group concluded.

"This failure may have created the greatest limitation on the potential impact of the sanctions," the report said.

'Subvert and Undermine'

"Not only has the Administration failed to comply with the spirit of the law, it has actively worked to subvert and undermine the efforts of other nations to achieve precisely the kind of multilateral cooperation contemplated by the statute," it added.

Gay J. McDougal, director of the study, acknowledged that Congress made its instructions on encouraging multilateral participation merely advisory and not legally binding and that some supporters in Congress sought to pass a bill that would be more a symbolic statement against apartheid than a real economic weapon.

To remedy that shortcoming, the group recommends new legislation to close many of the loopholes and a series of new sanctions that closely resemble the pending legislation in Congress sponsored by Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

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