LUXEMBOURG — The European Community agreed Monday to end sanctions on imports of iron, steel and gold coins from South Africa, the last remaining bans imposed by the trading bloc on Pretoria's white-led government.
However, the EC will continue to observe United Nations bans on sports events as well as embargoes on arms and crude oil from South Africa.
The ministers took their decision despite a plea Friday from the European Parliament to allow the assembly to debate the issue in Strasbourg this week. The European Parliament, like the U.S. Congress, has generally been a strong advocate of sanctions.
Sanctions on iron, steel and gold coins were imposed in 1986. At that time, EC imports of those items were valued at $700 million a year.
The foreign ministers of the 12 Western European nations said President Frederik W. de Klerk should be rewarded for his efforts to end the country's policy of racial segregation.
Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek said, "We felt that (the government) has lived up to its promises. This does not mean that apartheid is a thing of the past. The situation in South Africa remains tense."
In Cape Town, South Africa, De Klerk said in a statement: "I appreciate the European governments standing by their principles and commitments regarding this issue. It is another important step for South Africa and all its people toward improved economic conditions and normal international relations."
But the decision was immediately criticized by the African National Congress, the main South African opposition group.
"The kinds of things that were protested about prior to the implementation of sanctions are still here," ANC spokesman Saki Macozoma said in Johannesburg.
The ANC's secretary-general, Alfred Nzo, had appealed Friday to the EC to keep its sanctions in place, arguing it was too soon to get rid of them.
The European foreign ministers had promised in February to scrap the sanctions once legislation to end apartheid was presented in South Africa's Parliament. The legislative body is expected to adopt the package before July.
In December, the community ended a ban on new investments in an effort to show support for De Klerk's reform program.
SOME SANCTIONS CONTINUE
Here are major sanctions and boycotts still in place against South Africa:
* ECONOMIC: U.S. sanctions imposed in 1986 ban new investment in South Africa except in firms owned by black South Africans; ban imports of South African iron, steel, gold coins and agricultural products; and ban exports to South Africa of crude oil, petroleum products, munitions and computers and computer services.
Government-owned South African Airways cannot land in the United States. Other countries that have cut air links include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Oil-producing nations in the Persian Gulf have pledged not to sell oil, but South Africa buys through intermediaries at prices slightly above market rates.
The United Nations imposed an arms embargo against South Africa in 1963.
* SPORTS: South Africa was thrown out of the International Olympic Committee and Olympic competition in 1970. Its athletes are barred from competing abroad by most international bodies that control amateur sports. An Olympic delegation on March 27 gave South Africa strict terms to be readmitted and 180 days to comply.
* CULTURAL: The United Nations supports a cultural boycott.
* DIPLOMATIC: Fewer than 40 nations have full diplomatic ties with South Africa, but it has developed a number of low-level contacts with African states and Eastern European countries in the last two years. It is a member of the United Nations without voting rights.